1.13.2011

the matter of facts

This is not the kind of note you like to have slipped under your door when you are at the gym. But it is the kind of note one grows to expect when one is aging out of a dying field, in this case journalism.
   It was apparent during the early "coverage" of the Tucson shootings that there were no local people with the faintest clue about how to report out basic information. Nor did they appear to have any contacts with education or law enforcement. Nor did they appear to realize that they had a story of national interest in their bailiwick. It took 24 hours—and the arrival, presumably, of some pros—before we got details like a yearbook picture of the suspect or interviews with neighbors and witnesses.
   There are people who know how to do this kind of on-the-ground reporting, but they are being replaced by pundits and bimbos. No one is teaching the skill, says one friend who has become a journalism professor, because there is no market for it any more. The friend who left me the note was told that he was "outstanding" and "the best" at his job but that his position was being eliminated. Another friend, also now teaching, and bitter, says that he believes being good at your job in journalism is reason enough for being fired.
  The same economics drive job elimination in journalism as in the rest of corporate America: you get older and are paid enough that a company can hire several newbies for your salary—so what if they don't have the chops. It may take a while, but I suspect that one day people will realize that even tweets require facts. Let's hope some of the fogies are still around to teach them how to gather them.

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