1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Homicide: Life In The Newsroom

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Posted on Romenesko: Interview with "The Wire" creator David Simon.


    Nut graf:

    "The newsroom where I used to work (the Baltimore Sun) had 460 people. Now it has 300. And there are people out there who just don’t care. They’ll make more money putting out a mediocre paper than they would putting out a better paper. They know this. It's their equation. They’re quite content with mediocrity.

    "And within that culture we have people that are saying, ‘oh no, we’re going to do more with less,’ which is one of the great lies of the 21st century. What it means is we’re going to less with less. And that’s the nature of what journalism is becoming."
  2. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    David Simon is full of shit. Well, he's right that Wall Street finding the industry sucked ass.

    But the notion that doing more Watergate-style investigation would have saved newspapers is utter bullshit. In fact, precisely the opposite happened: Journalism schools and newspaper editors became obsessed with winning awards ("I'm sitting on Watergate here!" -- The Paper) at the expense of covering things that impact readers' day-to-day lives and engaging them with compelling and/or entertaining stories.
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    No, Simon says (Simon says?): "You see these sort of 'we gotcha' stories, bite sized morsels of outrage, half-assed scandals. No one is tackling big problems. That kind of ambition is gone. "

    What happened after Watergate was a deluge of trivial investigations that made newspapers look petty and small-minded and just annoyed the crap out of readers, which is what you're talking about.

    What Simon is saying is that few newspapers invest in getting at the investigative stories that actually mean something. And he's right.

    Ray Ring, who won a George Polk Award this year for his work with the High Country News, had an interesting perspective on this a few years back:

    Ring said journalists have a responsibility to report on more than just stories such as the President's sex life for six months. Ring added he is not fond of what he calls "expense account reporting" or investigating other issues that are relatively insignificant.

    "When journalists nitpick we lose the respect of the public," he said. "The power we have is misused."

    Big public issues are the ones worth investigating, Ring said. Pollution, illegal toxic dumps, health and safety violations in the workplace, corruption that has a societal impact, and topics that include real human victims of suffering are some of the issues that need to be championed, he said.

  4. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    I don't think generating important investigative stories and having circulation are contradictory. The newspaper has to do things which are important and affect people to be taken seriously in a community. If a newspaper did something which led to a reform, there should be a way to make that positive from a business point of view.
  5. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I agree that big time investigative pieces or packages won't do much for newspapers. You get a big scoop and its on TV that night or maybe even the day before its published due to a content sharing agreement with a local tv station. The fallout plays over the next few days, the paper gets criticized by partisans as being biased and loses circulation. What made Watergate work is that it was told bit by bit over a series of months. They didn't wait until every thing was known, but wrote what they knew when they knew it.
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I've seen market surveys that say readers expect us to be their "watchdogs." (Does that mean they think we lick ourselves?) Anyway, I certainly wouldn't say that selling papers and ads weren't important, but if that's all we did, why would we want to do this work for this pay? And if you don't allow a newsroom staff to stretch its talents and puff out its chest every so often, morale goes down the crapper and the product deteriorates in so many ways you can't begin to count them. Soon you're not even putting out decent news-lite. Because the talented people leave or get beaten down. Investigative work may not be a big seller with readers, but if you don't do it, your newsroom totally blows.
  7. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    The investigative piece will not sell papers in one instance, but I think over the long run you set a pattern and there is a benefit for the newspaper.
  8. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    No, you're missing the point. The "big" investigative journalism doesn't serve the readership. There's not a Watergate out there to report very often. Pursuing Watergates at the expense of other stories hurts the paper. What Simon is proposing is dedicating MORE resources to pursuing Watergates.

    It's bullshit.
  9. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    You're missing the overall. [/halholbrook]

    The "big" investigative journalism that you're denouncing might not serve the readership, but it very often serves the community. Simon is not talking about pursuing more Watergates, because those are once-in-a-lifetime situations. What he is proposing is spending more time/resources to take deeper looks at educational problems, at crime, at law enforcement problems, at the ill-advised war on drugs, at the outrageous gap between the haves and have-nots ... at the ills of our society. It's not just about political corruption.

    And, yes, I think Simon is right. We don't do that anymore. Part of that is on us. A lot of that is on the leaders in our industry.
  10. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    No, I'm not missing that. Newspapers for most of the past 35 years have spent far too many resources trying to change the world and win awards.

    Advocacy journalism is masturbatory and self-indulgent. Worse, advocacy journalism lends itself to boring and preachy stories that readers detest.
  11. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Although I agree with your first statement, I think there is a huge, huge difference between "trying to change the world" and "trying to win awards."

    But I don't share your cynicism for advocacy journalism. When done right, it's one of the most effective platforms for change our society has.
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Newspapers that win major prizes tend to do a lot of other things very well, too. They attract ambitious people, many of them having to prove themselves doing nuts-and-bolts coverage before they get a chance at the prestige assignments. The notion that they sacrifice the other things in pursuit of prizes is a bullshit notion.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page