If you know anything, thank a reporter

Is it funny-strange that a blog that comments on reporting and journalism has a category for Woeful Journalism but not one to sing its praises, or is it just funny-sad that there hasn’t been a need to have one?

People who came to journalism post-Watergate and later, like I did, have a lot of complaints about the state of the art/profession/trade as it exists today; I suspect our elders have their own hit parade of infamies that we committed.  But my complaint has never been about how the digital revolution is changing the way information is presented to the reader/listener/viewer/consumer/custo-mer, because to my mind the delivery method is a tertiary concern.  The primary concern should be the content, with a little preserving-and-protecting-a-free-and-independent-press as a secondary.

I’m fine with electronic self-publication (duh!), and there’s not a damn thing wrong with everybody expressing their own beliefs and opinions.  But I don’t ever confuse what I and thousands and thousands of other people do at our own private keyboards with what real, professional reporters do out in the world every day.  Today I ran across two great examples of why that job is hard to do, and why it can be dangerous to do.

When the Earth quakes and the ocean covers the land and nuclear reactors split open, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  When a dictator sends his army against its own people to suppress their expression of a desire for freedom, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  Real reporters leave their comfortable homes and go where the news is happening, to observe real events and talk to real people, to report, so the rest of us can know what’s going on.  The biggest risk we stay-at-home bloggers take is suffering a fragmented hard drive.

The next time you hear someone complain about the biased news media, remind them that it’s real reporters, working for all kinds of publications, who provide us all with the raw data that pundits and demagogues misconstrue to suit their own purposes, and that sometimes they risk their lives to do it.  More times than you probably imagine, they lose their lives doing it.  We owe them our thanks and our respect.

→UPDATE Mar. 21: Times reporters released by Libya

7 thoughts on “If you know anything, thank a reporter

  1. The press is the so-called “Fourth Estate.” It is appropriate to use the word “estate” to characterize the press, as it may be an active counter-balance to the first three estates or it may be a moribund enterprise in search of a probate proceeding. I do not want to digress into a colloquy about whether the right or the left controls the media or which media personality is or is not a journalist. I think Pat has identified a major criterion to evaluate whether the press is indeed doing its job and when we should be thankful for that job. As my prior blogs indicate, I am big on evaluative criteria. Thank you, Pat, for a necessary reminder.

  2. A true reporter is or should only be interested in the five “W”‘s, What, When, Where, Why and Who when writing a news story. Too often now, reporters are more interested in editorializing or being an opinion driver than being reporters. I think that’s why the internet news sources and the blogosphere are such a big deal now. If a person just relies on the “MSM” for their news, they’re getting a skewed picture of World and National events. Local news shows are a little better, but not much.


    1. You seem to agree that reporters, the people I praised for going out and gathering information for publication, are worthy of praise, and that the work they do is critical to an informed society. And I’d guess we both think that those who secretly promote a personal or political agenda while pretending to be straight reporters are people not worthy of respect or trust; people who use the facts gathered by reporters and overtly push a personal or political agenda are commentators or columnists or opinion hosts (gawd, what an awful construction!) or some other brand of entertainer, and they may be part of a company that also produces news, but they are not reporters. (Don’t forget the How that goes with those five Ws.)

      As for local news presenting a less-skewed picture of events than non-local, I can only guess that you must have the best local news alive!

  3. As a Famous writer once said;

    If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. —Mark Twain

    I only meant for local news, it’s not as skewed.


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