Came across a couple of stories this week that made me wonder what they’re teaching in journalism schools these days.
One piece, courtesy Poynter.org, was pegged to this New York Times article referring to the practice of sources demanding that reporters clear quotes with them before “allowing” their stories to run.
This is just so wrong on so many levels. How could a reporter even think for a second about turning over the editing pen to a source? I could talk off the record to a source all day, but she’d never touch my copy! For a reporter to agree to this puts the credibility of everything she writes on the line. “Beat sweeteners” are one thing, but this practice just throws the government watchdog function of the press to the dogs.
One of my biggest fears as I’ve watch the print newspaper business decline is that the power of the press would go with it. Maybe network or cable TV will pick up the slack, as they certainly seem to have the bucks. But TV seems more obsessed with digging up celebrity dirt than standing up for the public good.
The other article I read was an AP story saying families of the victims of the recent shooting rampage in Colorado wanted the media to restrict the use of the shooting suspect’s name. The idea is that the more publicity you give to unstable people who go off like this guy, the more you could be encouraging copycat behavior. I get that argument. I even thought as I saw the stories about the suspect trickle in: “He’s finally getting his 15 minutes-plus of fame.”
But there’s really no way around talking about what’shisname without mentioning his name. To bend over backward to avoid saying his name is just silly. To quote Bruce Hornsby (Sorry Walter Cronkite), “That’s just the way it is.”