Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stenography vs. journalism

I invite the reader to compare two stories, one in the Courier this afternoon and the other on eNews this morning. You'll notice that they are almost exactly the same.

Here's what's happening: both publications are reprinting press releases, in this case a police report, more or less unedited. This happens all the time, on everything from community events to City policy announcements to major crime stories.

Sometimes it's a good thing. In the past I've always preferred that the Courier just print my releases, because whenever the editors took an interest in them they'd come out all garbled.

But sometimes it's bad, like when officials do something stupid, dress it up as a good thing and knuckleball it to the voters.

For a good editor what's important is to read every release and sniff out whether there are questions that need asking. Then make sure they're asked, and put the answers in too. Oh, and check that the typist got the names spelled right and the dates and times are still correct.

A little while back an anonymous Courier employee commented here trying to defend the paper as being above reprinting press releases. Just sayin'.

There's no question about whether it's happening, at any publication. The question is whether you're doing it right.

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