On the Friday’s Today show, a reporter did a live shot from a canoe to illustrate the flooding in Wayne, N.J. But, the canoe was in only two feet of water, a fact illustrated when two men inadvertently walked through the water in front of the canoe. Now, that’s staged journalism.
The NY Times ombudsmen offers a critique of the paper’s decision to muzzle its coverage of the Columbia University report in order to get an exclusive. Much reaction to the deal mirrored my own:
Samuel Glasser, a reader in Port Washington, N.Y., who identifies himself as a former reporter and editor with three major newspaper chains, spoke for many: “The idea that editors and reporters would even have to be told not to do such a thing in the first place, let alone that they would ‘forget’ the policy, defies belief.”
He then explains the decision in the larger context of newspapers’ unending quest to be the first to report something. He asks a great quesiton. Why? He might have a point. A profession struggling with credibility issues might want to stress accuracy and ethics over speed.
Of course, this blog is struggling with credibility issues as well. Perhaps I should follow my own advice.
Interesting battle going on at the Boston Herald. The Washington Post weighed in today. A judge who gave a rapist a lenient sentence is upset with the Herald’s reporting and the subsequent TV coverage.
The story from the Post obviously sides with the judge. Large chunks of information presenting his side of the case are presented as fact with no attribution. Take this sentence for example: “Murphy developed post-traumatic stress disorder and later collapsed with a large duodenal ulcer near an artery.” I’m sure these are claims made in the judge’s lawsuit, but the sentence reads as though this is incontrovertible fact.
Looks like the Herald reporter got a little sloppy too:
Wedge said he stands behind what he wrote but acknowledged the quote may not have been exact. “I know he said the judge said either “She’s got to get over it” or “Tell her to get over it,” he said in an interview. Murphy maintains the conversation never occurred.
Of course, he didn’t know that the story was going to blow up and hinge around those words. But, he’d be in less hot water if he’d gotten the quotes right. That said, Dave Wedge is a good man and a good reporter. He’ll pull through this.
The interesting result may be the end of reporters doing television interviews — a welcome end to this media-crossing experiment. I never felt comfortable with newspaper reporters hawking their stories on TV. Newspaper reporters should have a healthy disdain for TV journalists.
In the end, this kind of stuff happens at the Herald about twice a year. If you’re the smaller paper in a two-paper town, you’ve got to make waves. Just make sure they spell your name right.