>Let’s Do It BetterPosted: January 29, 2008
>Do you watch CNN or other news channels? Have you noticed how many shows feature journalists as experts? Say the subject is the recession (or whatever we’re not calling it today). Around the table we see a writer from the Wall Street Journal, another from the Washington Post, maybe another from the New York Times, perhaps a TV commentator who specializes on the economy.
This drives me nuts. Not because journalists don’t know their subjects but because the media turn the writers into experts instead of going to the people who actually are experts. Sure, writers have studied their subjects. They’re good with language and many are used to public speaking. But why not get the information straight from the people are directly involved in the subject, even if they don’t speak as well as the writers do? Don’t interview the reporter who covered the story; interview the people he interviewed, or better yet, find some new people to add to what is already known.
The same thing happens on the Internet news outlets. They’re quoting the papers and rerunning video clips of what has already been broadcast instead of going out and finding their own stories. Pretty soon everybody is using the same information, boiling it down to standard one-minute news bites that may or may not represent the whole truth, and 99 percent of the nation swallows it whole as fact. Then they let any idiot comment, adding completely unverified remarks to the conversation.
Remember that recent footage of Britney Spears being hauled into an ambulance? The same pictures showed up everywhere. I would like to see a reporter do something different, something original, digging deeper into what really happened to the poor girl, not just what appeared to happen.
This is an area where I think newspapers do better than other media. Yes, God knows, the bigger the paper, the more wire service and syndicated copy it contains, but there are still those stories where actual reporters go to actual events and take notes, where they interview people who have not already been interviewed incessantly, where they sit down and write an original story that has not been written before. Staff writers have limited space and write in a hurry, but they usually have hours instead of the minutes given to those in the broadcast and Internet media.
Freelancers, because we are not tied by the same corporate strings as staff writers, have even more time to offer stories with new insights, stories that go deeper, that ask the important questions, that get down to the basics of what happened and let the people to whom it happened tell their own stories.
The moral of this rant? Don’t rely on secondary or tertiary sources. Get your own information and write a better story because you can.
Everybody say amen.