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Reporters As News

Jun
5
2007

It’s a defining moment: the Vatican is canonizing four saints at once and you’re sent to cover it.
Just as you’re winding up Roman Plate of Pasta No. 1, some scumbag snatches your purse.
Which, unfortunately, had goods (cash, jewelry) in it worth about $9,000 — as we learn from a story published by the journalist’s employer.


Such is the woeful tale of reporter-becoming-story as experienced by a woman from the Philippines.
Straightforward news accounts like this are so rare now they read like a page out of “Scoop.” Except, of course, that they’re not well written and careen recklessly to comical:
“Filipinos based here warned reporters covering the event to always be wary of pickpockets or snatchers…”
“They said the thieves often looked “pale” but are well-dressed. They call the thieves “gypsy,” who hail from Italy’s poorer neighboring countries.”

Pale? What an economical way of saying, “don’t expect thieves to be black people!”
Lost-in-translation guffaws aside, nowadays you’d expect the reporter not to warrant a story in the paper as much as blog about it on her own site. Or perhaps see on her Flickr account the last photo taken with the missing handbag, or maybe a snap in a Carabinieri hat after filing the police report.
The question is: When are reporters legitimate news and who gets first crack?
Had she blogged about it on her own site, the employer could’ve objected to this airing of what amounts to a personal incident on company time/dime.
This way the employer made money from it — and perhaps more than one reader is left wondering why a senior reporter would carry that much loot abroad and then get it stolen like a regular rube.
Increasingly, editors want reporters (especially freelancers) to have some connection to the story, to answer a question that didn’t used to matter: Why should *you* write it?
Experiential stories can be fun but there’s a fine line between bar hopping with friends to see if a non-smoking cigarette makes it past ciggy bans — strictly in the interest of journalistic investigation — and perhaps broadcasting to future employers one’s proclivity to party.
Some journalists go for a net separation. One man-about-town writer I know has trained people to use a nickname for all the photos online that inevitably show him in various states of drunkenness and/or undress. A lot are snapped — not surprisingly — at press junkets, media parties, etc.
So it’s a side of him you might see in real life, but not one you can call up with his online clips.
The other extreme are blogs by journalists — and a few editors — who don’t mind telling you about a death in the family or the wife’s pregnancy.
Fascinating reading, but I always wonder why they don’t imagine that anyone (rivals, employers, colleagues, interviewees, grant committees) reads this stuff and draws conclusions.
They’re going to have to start teaching journalists the finer points of impression management along with the AP Stylebook.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 9:54 AM | Permalink

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