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Small question on investigative stories

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sirvaliantbrown, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. Both of these good stories - this one (http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/news?slug=ys-uconnphone032509&prov=yhoo&type=lgns) on apparent UConn violations, and this one (http://www.thestar.com/sports/nba/article/607198) on Chris Bosh being a bad dad - say that the person who'd be hurt most by the story declined comment the day before the story was published.

    It's not clear when Calhoun was first asked to comment - he might've been asked a week ago; maybe he simply delayed until last night. But say, hypothetically, that he was asked yesterday and told the story was coming out today, just as Bosh appeared to have been told about the Toronto Star scoop the day before it came out. Is that fair? Don't we owe the subject of the expose some not-harried time to think about what, if anything, they want to say?

    I ask this question even when the subject says no comment, as Calhoun did. But Bosh simply didn't "return a request for comment." What if he had three hours of free time that day, and wanted to, say, talk to his lawyer before speaking publicly, given that there is a lawsuit in progress, but his lawyer was on a NY-LA flight and unreachable? What if he didn't check his voice mail until 10 PM?

    Who knows. He probably just didn't respond because he didn't want to respond. But maybe he'd have responded - thus enriching the story - had he been given a little longer to breathe.

    My point is that it seems like there are cases in which we can give the guy the benefit of an extra day, even in which we can even give the guy a full week. Seems that we too often call the guy at 3 PM the day before when our story has been in the works for weeks or months. Speed is of the essence, of course, but so is fairness. Your thoughts?
  2. sportsed

    sportsed Member

    It's not such a small question, and I think we've all been in a position, especially in today's instant media age, when competitive pressures have forced a quick trigger with the publish button.

    Too often, stories similar to Yahoo's are written before the first calls are placed to the central figures for their sides of the issues, an "Insert comment here" dropped in where the expected "No comment" fits nicely into the narrative arch.

    That's not only ass-backward, it's agenda journalism. Though it's understandable why writers would want to wait to contact the focus of their stories in the final stages, the best investigative stories are those that are written after they've been fully reported. Those are the stories that offer true balance, that paint a picture from all points of view, not just of those, as is too often the case, of the side making the accusations.

    That said, if, after given sufficient warning and opportunity to comment, a source refuses to respond, then is the time to pull the trigger. Which, from what I understand of the UConn story, is what Yahoo! did here.
  3. PeteyPirate

    PeteyPirate Guest

    There are a lot of quotes from the assistant coach. I find it hard to believe Calhoun didn't know the story was coming.
  4. I agree with all of this. Good post - and fair on the UConn thing. Have to write it at some point.
  5. sportsed

    sportsed Member

    In UConn's case, I'm sure the folks there knew something was up the moment the FOIA request came off the fax. There was plenty of time to get their story straight.
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The Star article had to mention Bosh's use of Twitter.
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