This post was written by guest blogger John Druga. If you would like to be a guest blogger, click here.
Once again, the news business has a black eye, this time courtesy of NBC’s Brian Williams.
Like any business, a few rotten apples can spoil the bunch.
In the early 1980s, Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter, won a Pulitzer Prize for a story about an 8-year-old boy hooked on heroin. However, she fabricated the entire story, and admitted as much after evidence pointed in that direction. She had to give back the most prestigious award in journalism.
However, the vast majority of journalists are honest and fair and report the news as accurately as possible. If this wasn’t the case, they would soon be on the unemployment line.
Journalists as a whole get a bad rap. They are thought of as highly paid professionals who have an agenda. This could not be farther from the truth.
First of all, most journalists will never be rich. For every Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer who make millions, there are thousands of reporters, editors and photographers working for daily newspapers and TV stations in the United States. These people make a living, but will never be the next Bill Gates.
When I was in journalism school, more than one professor said: “You better love what you do, because you will never be rich.”
And so it is.
The pressure for reporters, photographers and editors is constant. Reporters need to come up with the next interesting story that is timely and newsworthy. Sometimes it can be easy; a story falls into their laps. Other times, it takes research and many interviews to make for a compelling article.
For photographers, they must capture an event with a single shot of the camera. And they do it for maybe four or five events in a single news cycle.
Editors also live with pressure on a daily basis. They must take the reporters’ stories, edit them for grammar and spelling, all the while with a keen eye on accuracy. Did I mention deadlines? Oh, those deadlines come up every 24 hours for newspaper editors. It’s even worse for TV newsroom bosses who have multiple daily newscasts.
And breaking news … 30 minutes before deadline. Talk about intense.
Only in the Movies
Movies and television portray reporters as going after one hot story after another. If covering a council meeting about pot holes is your idea of great story, then yes, reporters always write Pulitzer prize-type pieces.
However, most of the time, the stories covered are important only to a segment of the community, but of no interest to anyone outside the coverage area.
More than a few times I have had someone ask if I have ever raced in the pressroom and yelled, “Stop the presses.” The answer is “never.” With the 24-hour news networks, most of the national and world news newspapers publish is dated by the time it hits the street. What newspapers can give readers are additional details that CNN, Fox News or MSNBC may have left out.
Newspaper journalists today are being squeezed by falling circulation, which means less ad revenue which ultimately leads to smaller raises, if any raises at all. At many newsrooms nationwide, staffs have been cut and salaries reduced.
Here is something else to think about. The Internet has made writers out of anyone who wants to sit in front of a computer. Anyone can write, but most don’t have the training necessary to be a reporter, to get the facts and compose a compelling story.
So the next time you see a reporter, editor or photographer from your local newspaper or television station, give them a big “thank you.” They deserve it.
John Druga has worked as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers in Pennsylvania and Ohio for more than 30 years. He has a degree in Journalism and Communications from Point Park University in Pittsburgh.