And the beat goes on

Dateline: Thu 15 Nov 2007

Another Star insider speaks up on the dance being done these days between MSM reporters, bloggers and others crafting the news. His take is mostly about biz coverage and worth a listen:

"The competitiveness in the Indianapolis business media is why all three sources - Star, IBJ, Gerry Dick - are worth reading. A good chunk of IBJ's reporting staff worked (and excelled) at the Star, so it'd be foolish to assume they wouldn't hustle the same while at IBJ.

"No reporter or outlet has 100% domination over every scoop in the market, and many times a 'scoop' is only the result of a reporter posting contents of a mass e-mailed press release first on their website. The Star had stories on Dunkin Donuts and Johnny Rockets expansion and the 1,300-job Medco announcement and the new Indy Partnership leader before IBJ, but IBJ has had plenty of firsts on real-estate as well, but not all of them.

"Dick, closely aligned to the chambers of commerce, has nailed his share of exclusives before IBJ and the Star. Rather than denigrate, I would think that people who have an interest in business stories would cheer the diverse sources to stay informed.

"Oh, by the way, once a story is created in the web-publishing system that is used by the Star, it cannot be time-stamped backwards as your member asserts. The creation time is the reaction time despite the conspiracy theories."

We all agree competition is healthy. The explosion of blogs has changed the news-reporting landscape in a few short years, for the better in my view. All bloggers are saying is, give them credit when credit is due. Many bloggers work like dogs, and there is no paycheck for their effort at the end of the week. But do they have tunnel vision at times? Sure. Who doesn't? MSM reporters don't?

Here's a distinction made by a friend in the blogs vs. newspapers discussion. (This comes from someone not quite as close to this as I am, not a journalist, but a thoughtful observer): If a reporter reads an item on a blog -- say a new restaurant is opening -- and that information is in fact readily available and confirmable with a simple phone call or email, it's not necessary to credit the blog, assuming the reporter makes the contacts him/herself. But if a reporter reads a blog and gains an insight and then writes a story based on that blogger's insight/view, it's mental theft.

But, mea culpea. I may appear callous and stupid, and I may well be, but I have not forgotten my origins or lost respect and affection for my former colleagues.

I know firsthand how hard reporters and others at the Star work, and I know what they are up against: mercurial top-level bosses or those who just plain lie; heavy workloads; low morale as other staffers leave or are fired; and a constant shortage of resources, thus increasing everyone's adrenalin levels. And then there's this traitorous bitch, piling on. Bloggers, by contrast, are remarkably free of such nonsense, although not immune.

In fundamental ways, the toughness of the newsroom culture has not changed since my father dropped dead on the city room floor in St. Louis in 1949 -- deadlines, calling the suicide's widow, nasty reader feedback/backtalk, a strong sense that you are only as good as your last story/headline, feeling the competition's hot breath on your neck -- back then it was reporters at other dailies --- it all takes its toll. Yes, I get it: it ain't no job for wussies, and anyone who sticks it out deserves, at the very least, loyal readers.

As for not defending my former fellow reporters Susan Guyett and Jeff Swiatek when I raised the bloggers' concerns -- a charge leveled by unnamed reporter -- all I can say is, I'm far from perfect. And I still subscribe.


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