Back in the day, the only way reporters on one side of the country would’ve heard about the failings of another reporter in another part of the country was through one of the profession’s many yearly conferences, through J-school, through hard copies of journalism journals, or through personal friends who kept in touch.
But with all these blogs now keeping an eye on the mainstream media, in a lightning-fast, all accessible manner, I’m shocked with how frequently long-time reporters are making spectacular (not in a good way), newbie mistakes. Take the LA Times’ Eric Slater and the whole Chico State debacle, chronicled here, here and here. Among community newspapers like mine, us first, second and third-year reporters (um, wait….do we have any third year reporters?) are aghast and in awe that you could make so many mistakes and get away with it. And get away with it with just an initial suspension! At the community level, considered by many as the lowest-rung of the journalism ladder, we’ll get chewed out for just misspelling a name (which, in Glendale, with the wealth of Armenian and Thai names, is really easy to do), saying something was in La Crescenta, rather than La Canada Flintridge, or something equally not-as-earth-shaking as, say, stating someone was dead, when he was really hospitalized.
Then there’s this one item about a sports reporter who apparently wanted to give kudos to a great column in the LA Times, but failed to give the proper credit. How does that slide by editors????
Then, there’s still another reporter, from the Detroit Free Press, who essentially got caught with his proverbial pants down, writing that two people were at a game when they were not. (What shocks me most is that editors are saying this is not a fireable offense, whereas, if I had gotten caught doing something like that, I know I’d be canned in a heartbeat. Most of these editors are arguing that his entire career should be considered in the context of his mistake, but here’s how I see it – young reporters are newbies, and possibly didn’t know better, so give them some slack so they can learn from their mistakes. Veteran reporters should know better. Period.)
I think this might really be the real reason why old-school journalists feel so threatened by bloggers – they look like upstarts encroaching on their territory (and believe me, journalists are territorial – how else would you explain the competitive mentality?).
One of these days, my husband is going to stumble on my blog (he doesn’t read it regularly, and maybe that’s a good thing) and ask me if I’m confident this won’t bite me in the butt later. But honestly, the foibles of this profession make me wonder everyday if this is truly what I want to be doing.