To: The mainstream news media
From: A former newspaper reporter
Re: Good job lately
It is not often lately that the news media does something that makes me proud to have been, for most of my adult life, a member of that profession.
So before the news media does anything embarrassing – like screwing up the printing of a Sudoku puzzle – I want to note a few positive actions by members of the news media:
1) In a field known for ruthless behavior, where too often the Judith Millers and Bob Woodwards grab the headlines, it is refreshing to read about the work habits and ethics of former New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum was killed in a mugging over the weekend.
While that crime, of course, is terrible it is wonderful to read about the success of a guy who was so sharing and helpful. There was a very moving piece in the Washington Post Tuesday in which reporter Glenn Kessler talks not only about what a great guy Rosenbaum was but how he would go out of his way to help others. David Shribman of St. Petersburg Times also wrote, in his own appreciation, about Rosenbaum’s generosity in aiding colleagues and others.
2) The online magazine Slate has an irregular column which does something many news organizations could do better: it explains complicated issues.
While many viewers and readers are aware of privacy laws in this country I think few are aware about how that relates to what we get from the news. The result is frustration and confusion about why the news is not more detailed, or faster sometimes, in providing medical updates about patients.
In a new “explainer” piece, Slate explains how reporters are hamstrung by the federal privacy law in what information they can get from the hospitals.
I would love to see newspapers and television news do more explaining and less guessing and opining, especially when they do not actually know what is going on.
And while navel-gazing can get old, some reflecting provides fresh light on what happened, as Derek Rose does here with his thoughts on what went wrong with the miners story.
3) When pursuing a story, reporters and editors throw caution and privacy to the wind to get good copy, right? Well, that may be the stereotype but it was good to see cooperation from reporters covering the kidnapping of a Christian Science Monitor stringer.
After Jill Carroll was kidnapped on Saturday news agencies were asked not to report on her kidnapping in an attempt to help ensure her safe return. Most news agencies agreed to the request for a weekend news blackout, waiting until Monday and Tuesday to report about her kidnapping and the murder of her interpreter. The newspaper’s managing editor said she was pleasantly surprised by the cooperation of the news media.
See, they are not all blood-seeking leeches, despite what some would have you believe.
The news media gets criticized a lot – and I’ve delivered my fair of digs at the profession – but consider some of what it’s up against. No, not just the usual attacks from all parties and perspectives about not being fair and balanced.
No, I’m talking about the cost-cutting by owners of news agencies.
Take, for example, this memo in which reporters are asked to try to stop using company phones because it might interfere with advertisers or subscribers trying to call in.
I will leave you with a link to this New York Times article, my favorite read today. Thanks to the Captain’s Quarter blog for bringing it to my attention.
Now “porn coverage” and “New York Times reporter” are not usually two concepts mentioned in the same breath, but today is an exception. Reporter Matt Richtel has a great, snarky piece on a porn awards ceremony, complete with porn actresses nervous about what to wear (not being known for wearing clothes), unsure what to say (not being known for dialogue) and working hard to be as authentic as possible.
Your constant reader,