What does it mean to be a journalist covering Newtown?
Great story from Newtown by Yahoo!'s Jason Sickles, a CBS Evening News Producer I hired when I was at the Dallas Morning News, and brought over when I came here: Inside the mind of a hard news reporter. We've all been there. One commenter dismissed his terrific piece saying we're just in it for the money. I replied this way:
The advent of real time news via social media and digital platforms has accelerated the pressure to be quick and first. It's also upped the ante for the reporter who is sloppy when pursuing the craft. But Tymorial, I can tell you that as a career journalist, none of us is in it for the money. Most of us recognize that our currency is accuracy and credibility. Frequent errors and omissions are the quickest way to the journalistic sidelines.
Sure, for a few, there's glamor, but that's the minority (who knows the name of the person who reported this story without having to scroll back up to the top of the page?). And there's occasionally adventure. (But don't tell that to the suburban town hall reporter.) But some things have changed. In my 30-year career I've seen an increasing reliability on unconfirmed and unverified information. Yet I know that it isn't what we teach or counsel as industry leaders; it's what happens when fallible humans take shortcuts to the end goal.
Reporters are driven by a desire to communicate, explain, expose and inform. It's a mission mentality really, and that overrides so much of what non-journalists think we focus on (political or personal agendas, for instance.) We on-the-ground reporters don't see the money like you may think: Salaries are crashing, jobs are scarce, news organizations are in bankruptcy, and the public's trust in media is at a low ebb. Despite that, we keep reporting, due, I think, to some deeper desire to connect.
At its greatest realization our goal is to help foster the informed public so important to our American democracy. I kid you not.