Recently, I had a unique experience of being privy to “insider information” on a hot-topic issue that ran on the front pages of major newspapers across the country. In a way, watching news story after news story come out, it was kind of like being in the middle of a sausage factory, watching it all being made, and being a little disappointed in the process. Without going into any details (my blog is my personal endeavor and I try to keep it that way), I have to say that my eyes were opened at some of the laziness of professional reporting, and my experience has made me think twice about accepting what I read in major news sources simply because they are major news sources.

Here are a few things that I saw that I would have thought were questionable tactics from reputable news sources:

  • The same story getting “repackaged” and “re-titled” over and over again within the same week. I noticed this actually came from the same parent company owning a number of different news titles and needing to fill space. Perhaps one benefit from this was that some of these resources were regional in scope, but most, if not all, were Internet resources, so the story was still accessible to everyone with a web browser. The problem really came from the fact that it looked like the story was presented as being somehow different from the initial story, but when you compared them, it was simply a reprint with a different title and publication date.
  • Reporters quoting other reporters as “facts”. This isn’t new, but it was interesting watching one reporter quoting the story written by another as part of their “fact gathering” process. Most of the cross-quoting was taking pieces of the initial reporter’s conjecture and twisting it into an assumed fact. It was like watching a game of “Telephone” and seeing how it morphed over and over again as the next reporter added another layer of conjecture to the story.
  • Research based completely on what was available on the Internet. I know that the days of Woodward and Bernstein meeting with Deep Throat in a car garage are over, but I at least expected reporters to pick up a phone, or meet with a source in person before writing a story. Instead, what I saw was reporters taking press releases, sending out a “can you give me a quote” email to one or two people, and then writing the story without interviewing a single person. For goodness sake, Above the Law does a better job talking with insiders on a story than some of the most respected newspapers in the country. I watched as reporters chimed in on the comments section of their story saying that they sent an email, but are still waiting on a response. However, I guess in this day of being “first to print,” no one really has time to get out and talk with anyone anymore. After all, if that person does respond, that means a follow-up story can be written and a one-day story can turn into a two-day story.
I guess I expected better out of the corp of professional reporters. I know that they constantly complain about the tactics that the blogosphere takes in running with a story without doing any serious research on the issues, and injecting conjecture into the story in such a way that you can’t really tell what parts are facts versus what parts are conjecture. In this case, however, I watched as a number of professional reporters did the very same actions that they despise from bloggers. 
Ethics and solid professional processes of reporting are two of the most important aspects that hold professionally trained reporters and the sources they work for above the fray of the blogosphere. If professional reporters decide to take short-cuts with those two processes, we all suffer the consequences. I expect better, but I fear that I will just continue to be disappointed.