“It’s a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.”
I love this quote and I love the fact that it’s right there on the wall in Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman’s office. That quote — attributed to the Chicago Times in 1861 — is the quintessential summary of my chosen line of work.
Think of that quote along the lines of “There is no ‘I’ in team” and “Defense wins championships” that are so common — yet true — in sports.
Driving back to Kansas City is a great time to groove out and gather my thoughts. This quote in particular kept popping up in my mind.
Back in college, professors always stressed how much social media and the Internet have changed journalism and I can see that first hand.
In KC, there is this “news” blog called Tony’s Kansas City, which some people rely on as a genuine news outlet. I’m sorry, but sitting behind a laptop and gossip mongering isn’t journalism and it isn’t news.
Anybody can have someone email them a cell phone photo and conduct a phone interview for quotes, but that isn’t journalism.
Real journalism is putting in the hard work, too. Journalism is talking to people face to face, going to the meetings and not just writing what happened in the minutes.
In my opinion, it’s not just about informing the people. It’s about connecting with them, as well.
How can you accurately capture what went down at a city council or school board meeting if you weren’t there? If this were Westeros, the setting for the incredibly popular “Game of Thrones” television show, having little birdies tell you things would be an acceptable form of receiving the news.
This is the real world, though, and you need to have real-world credibility.
The problem with these so-called news blogs is that there is no oversight. If I mess up, I have an associate editor, editor and publisher all waiting to talk with me.
With a blog, there is no chain of command, no authority figure and no need to be unbiased. Anyone can write whatever he or she wants on the Internet, which is a good/bad thing, but when it comes to news: it’s all bad.
In journalism, you have to act responsibly. Your words affect people’s lives. This is why we wait on all the facts before going to press.
With a blog, none of that matters. You don’t have to tell both sides of the story, you don’t have to worry about libel, and quite frankly you don’t have to worry about the truth, which is a cornerstone of this industry.
Just to give you an example of this, here’s a blog entry from Kansas City’s own Tony Botello, the “newsman” behind Tony’s Kansas City:
“Regarding TKC posts published on Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.; Friday, May 13, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.; and Monday, May 16, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.: This blog is retracting those entries, and they have now been deleted from the archives.
“In the context of a tense debate over the MAST ambulance merger into the Kansas City Fire Department, this blog reported and offered commentary on arguments from anonymous tipsters aimed against former Local 42 Union President Louie Wright. TKC acknowledges that the claims were not verified and that such claims should be viewed as baseless.
“TKC agrees with, recognizes, respects and acknowledges Mr. Wright’s assertion that he has never profited from any charity work for the United Way or any other charitable or not for profit organization, with which he is or has been affiliated.
“Moreover, TKC would like to apologize to Mr. Wright for any distress caused by the posts.”
Incidents such as that are why we at the Daily News don’t use anonymous sources and we try to find as many on-the-record sources as possible. There have been stories I’ve done all kinds of work on, interviews, acquiring records, calling people, just to never write them because we can’t verify one person’s claim.
I will give Tony credit for writing a retraction when he screwed up. Many other blogs continue to act recklessly and promote themselves as a legitimate news outlet and don’t own up to the consequences when they make a mistake.
As much fun as I have doing my job, I also understand that this is a very serious business and I take it as such.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to inform and raise some hell.