To: The Mainstream News Media
From: A former reporter/news junkie
Re: Put The Champagne Away. The Party Is Over. Now Get Back To Work
First, thanks again – both as a journalist for more than 10 years and a human – for doing such an excellent job on Katrina.
Along with others, I wrote about some great media accomplishments during the disaster.
It was inspiring to see some reporters working so hard under terrible conditions.
That said, it’s time for the celebrating and the self-congratulations to stop.
The fact of the matter is the reason the journalism was exciting was because reporters were once again asking tough questions, having gotten their spine back from whereever it has been stored in recent years.
Put another way, journalists are praising each other for doing what they are supposed to be doing, asking tough questions, using their B.S. detectors, etc.
This would be like writing columns thanking doctors for doing operations, cops for catching robbers, and rock stars for, well, rocking.
As I read three newspapers and many media blogs daily, I see story after story of reporters, editors, and columnists talking about their finest hour.
Well, that hour is over and it’s time to get back to work and show us, the readers and viewers, that you can continue to be aggressive on other issues.
The disaster and its aftermath raised some excellent questions which will hopefully not be forgotten, from when it is acceptable – if ever – to publish photos of dead bodies to whether the media should help people in dangerous conditions even it may mean losing the story.
Resist the urge to get bogged down in blame game stories. Those get old fast.
And please resist the temptation to cover every other hurricane as if it is going to be the next Katrina. It won’t be.
Ask yourself why the Daily Show does a better job covering some of these issues than “real” news shows.
Meanwhile, some of you are facing some sobering news about the media industry:
– The New York Times announced it was cutting 500 jobs, 4 percent of its workforce, the same day the Philadelphia Inquirer announced a planned buyout of 15 percent of its newsroom.
– The Washington Post made a move demonstrating even the big media organizations sometimes have their priorities all wrong as death notices were bumped to make way for ad space. Its ombudsman rightly took them to task.
– A weekly called the Washington Post on something that many newspapers are sadly guilty of: Giving more coverage to white crime victims than poor black crime victims.
– And a stringer for the New York Times in Iraq was killed. There’s nothing like
losing a media colleague to wake up members of the media.
If you don’t believe me, watch the documentary Control Room sometime. In fact, that can be your homework assignment.
Until next time,
I remain your intrepid media observer & analyst
P.S. In my next piece I’ll write about how the mainstream media – particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post – are dealing with changes brought about by the Internet.