Journalism’s sins laid bare
The big league journalists finally have exposed themselves as utterly silly twits.Nah, I’m not talking about Newsweek, or Dan Rather, or all the national level news media that flocked to Eagle County for Kobe Bryant and ran stories on secondhand anonymous sources who were flat wrong. Or, let’s be generous in Rather’s case, never proved themselves correct enough to justify running as “news.”Not The New York Times and USA Today writers who faked quotes and facts wholesale.Not the Detroit Free Press and sports columnist and corporation of his own, Mitch Albom, writing a future that didn’t happen and quoting people as if he had interviewed them in supposedly nonfiction pieces. Not the journalists and pundits who sold themselves to the government in exchange for a friendly word.All these crimes against journalism, large and small, make up the usual minefield we work in. The competition for scoops breeds shortcuts in what should be hallowed newsgathering principles. The rather overwrought quest for recognition gives us phonies. And money, well, money has its corrosive effects even in professions that don’t earn much.In journalism, the cream is supposed to rise to the top, much like baseball. We operate in a bit of a star system. Ambitious reporters work at little shops out of school, then step to a little bigger, then bigger and finally reach the major markets. Each stop comes with more pay, and more prestige.So how is it that at the Vail Daily, in all frankness a double A stop in the minors at best, has more sense than Newsweek, and reporters who know better than Albom?You can pin it on the various pressures unique to the big leaguers. But what to you call it when they call come to your town to compete? The dinky Daily held to the fundamental principles AND scooped them all regularly at the beginning and end of the Kobe Bryant rape case story. This is not to suggest the Daily is special. Almost any little paper would have done the same. There is something seriously wrong with our profession’s cream of the crop.The proof, at least for me, lies in a picture of Saddam Hussein in his tighty whities, published Friday. Or rather the pathetic defense of publishing the picture as oh so important news.Never mind the Bush administration launching an investigation into who leaked the pics taken of the evil one in prison, or Hussein’s outraged defense lawyers. There was no real journalistic point in printing the picture in The Sun in London or The New York Post, both Rupert Murdoch papers. But hey, those are rank tabloids. Why would The New York Times bother? And what was in the mind of the managing editor at my favorite big paper, the Los Angeles Times, to declare the photo was “clearly a story” in a New York Times article Saturday? The article continues with the pathetic tripe of network journalists weighing in on the newsworthiness of running the shot of Hussein in his underwear.I’m frustrated with the Front Range papers running secondhand, anonymously sourced “news” stories that turned out to be wrong about Vail Resorts being sold last summer without correction or apology later. I’m disappointed in Rather and Newsweek, and Albom and his editors. I see the scoop and award culture of my profession as deep flaws. Instead of the best and brightest, our big leaguers include too many talented sellouts who have gotten all too used to ignoring the rules. I think they’ve made a mess of a noble profession. They are wretched examples for the Daily’s staff to follow. (And I see we ran a picture Saturday of the New York Post cover. Ugh.)But I have to laugh at the emperor’s clothing that the top minds in journalism have used to dress up the tighty whitey affair. What a joke.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555.Vail, Colorado
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