Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The New "Journalism"

What happened to the days of researching your own news story as a reporter?  What happened to getting the story the old fashioned way without wooing the newsmaker financially?

The Baby Lisa Irwin missing child case here in Kansas City has opened my eyes to a lot of things.  At 50 years old, I thought I had seen quite a bit.  As a reporter, I have covered presidential visits, presidential campaigns rolling through the Show Me State, the Miss Universe pageant, entertainers, and the mundane local government and school board meetings.

I was so excited as a college student to get out and make my dent in the news world that I went straight through and graduated in November of my senior year.  I had a job in radio news in under a week from leaving college and was covering politics in the state capitol.  It was sure a plum job for a farm boy from rural Mid-Missouri who always wanted to be a news reporter.

But I was lucky enough to learn a few things in college.  My Mass Communications law class taught me a lot about covering my reporting butt; things I have carried with me as a private investigator.  My journalism instruction taught me how to write in a non-presumptuous way.  Along the way, I have worked with some good people who I have learned from as well.

With the advent of internet has come blogging.  The blogging journalists (I couldn't come up with a Brangelina type word for that) range from the trained to the newbies.

In the Baby Lisa case, I have cringed at some of the stories I have read.  One story started out as pointing out how long it had been since the night Baby Lisa was abducted.  Oh, so now we know for sure she was abducted, we just have to find out who did it? I don't think so.

An internet story I read had a dateline of Kansas City, then the reporters name.  Okay, so it specifically didn't say the reporter was in Kansas City covering the story, but it could be very easily assumed.  It got worse.  The story told of several things going on in the Baby Lisa case, quoting people, when I am fairly confident the "reporter" got from other interviews and other coverage from Kansas City area TV stations' internet postings.

What happened to attribution and giving credit where credit is due?  Well, I guess if you never took a journalism class maybe nobody ever taught you that.  I was taught you would give credit such as "according to an Associated Press interview".  Sans the attribution, it makes the reporter look like they did all the work themselves rather than a compilation of news sources.

As a young reporter, adrenaline drove me to getting the scoop; beating the competition.  It was good old fashioned hard work.  Now, rumors circulate of news entities wooing newsmakers with money to curry favor.

I am not accusing nor am I affirming, but the rumors have abounded from many sources that ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) is paying bills for Jeremy Irwin and Deborah Bradley in order to get exclusive access to things like Halloween with the Irwins.  I am told they justify it by saying GMA is an entertainment show, thus it is not "checkbook journalism" popularized by the tabloids.  I hope the multiple rumors are not true.

I would sure hate to believe that reality TV has crossed over into shows that we believe to be representing factual news accounts.  It makes a cynical bystander like myself wonder what is real that I see on the news shows and what is staged.  Are protesters around the world and others the cameras scramble for putting on a show until the camera leaves and returns?

I should point out that local news coverage in Kansas City has been outstanding.  I have had the pleasure of meeting several news reporters during this process and they are, without exception, dedicated, hard working, extremely competent, and probably underpaid.  Sorry, as a former reporter I can vouch for the underpaid part.

By the way, this blog is just my opinion and observation. It is not a news account. :)