Monday, January 16, 2012

News from the Other Side

I know it’s been more than five years since I left the news business, but I still think about it from time to time.

This story in particular got me to thinking about the news again, because it’s a story that affects me but from the other side – I’m not the one writing the news, I’m the one impacted by it.

As is often the case, those being impacted by the news know more about it than those reporting it. I know, for example, that the number being laid off is higher than what is reported here (still crossing my fingers I’m not one of them today). So as I read the story, I see the questions that the reporter missed, and the fact that not knowing the background to the story – or at least not reporting it here – is a hindrance to the reporter’s overall performance and the accuracy of the news being reported.

In the story, CWI mentions 133 people being laid off by the end of January. But from the inside, I recognize this as CWI talk – they’re talking direct employees only, not subcontractors and direct employees. That’s why the number of employees to be laid off in my mind is higher than that being reported. CWI here is telling the truth – but the reporter isn’t digging deep enough into the story to get the full picture. Yes, they are laying off X number of their own employees, but if the reporter talked with anyone else, she’d discover there are also X number of subcontract employees already laid off or soon to be dismissed. She allows for a rosier picture than the reality, which is too bad, because for those in the know, it hurts her credibility.

I’m sure I did the same thing as a reporter. So this solidifies in my mind the commandment that Reporters Shall Know their Beats. Granted, what’s likely going on here is that there are more general assignment reporters these days than beat reporters so they don’t have the inclination to specialize. I know I didn’t, even as a gar in Rexburg. That was my specialty, but I didn’t narrow it. Somewhat with BYU-Idaho, but that was about it. So yes, on my part, mistakes were made. Ah, hindsight.

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