Reporters are like dogs

drdenny has a fantastic take on why CNN is in such trouble these days. Read it here.

Denny is so right. Somewhere along the line journalists slipped into thinking that news is something that happens and then you go cover it. Of course, news is happening all the time. As long as there are politicians and wealthy business interests, news will happen. Spectacular news. Blow-the-lid-off-the-TV news.

But rich and powerful folks don’t necessarily want that news to break, so they get better and better at covering their tracks, and the only way it does see the light of day is if Typists Formerly Known as Reporters hit the bricks and feckin’ dig a little.

Woodward and Bernstein weren’t sitting around in the newsroom waiting for news to happen so they could go write down what everybody else could plainly see. They were taking chances, getting their hands dirty. Serving the country in a way that actually justified a mention of the press in the First Amendment.

I guess reporters are like dogs. Some breeds are comfortable laying around the couch 23 hours a day. If you’re a ne’er-do-well and you come strolling into their house unsanctioned, they might jump up and chew on your butt, but you’re fairly safe so long as you’re discreet. Basset Hounds are a good example of this kind of dog.

Other dogs – terriers come to mind – they don’t sit on the couch a whole lot. They’re instinctively looking for trouble from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. They beat the weeds, poke their noses into holes, and bark at anything that seems even remotely out of line. The notoriously hellacious Jack Russell Terrier, bred for verminating and going to ground after things like foxes, has been known to go into a hole and stay underground for two whole days trying to subdue a fox and drag it out. That, friends, is what we call “tenacity.”

Reporters are indeed like dogs. And right now America could use a lot more terriers and a lot fewer Bassets…..

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2 comments

  1. Yep, there are plenty of lazy reporters. But there are also plenty of reporters who might just do that digging if they didn’t work in newsrooms that were severely understaffed (and usually underpaid, as the companion to that). Even the most dedicated person can only work so many hours in a day. If you’re spending all of your time chasing the immediate stuff because your idiot bosses won’t spend a few more bucks for a few more reporters, having the tenacity to do the digging may not get you very far. Part of the reason Woodward and Bernstein could do the digging is that they had management support — support of the type that’s far too often lacking these days. Reporting of the type you’re describing takes time — which requires a management willing to give you at least a little of that time.
    Any wonder why people get discouraged in journalism and go looking for other places to be?

  2. I’ve posted a few times on this subject, as well, and you couldn’t be more right. I was painting with an overbroad brush, I fear – reporters who have forgotten what it is to be by god reporters are perhaps part of the issue, but as you say, pump some resources into the newsroom and you’ll see a lot of that problem disappear in a hurry, huh?

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