Confessions of a Journalist

I confess: I get it.  I understand the Toronto Star, the actions of their reporters.  There’s adrenaline that goes with finding a big story, and chasing it no matter where it leads.  It’s especially heady when you find out it’s an exclusive.

Ambition can do crazy stuff to people.  Ambition is when you find yourself meeting with a drug dealer at  an undisclosed location to watch a video featuring someone who is allegedly Mayor Rob Ford. But you have absolutely no way to either verify the man’s identity, and the video’s contents.  Ambition can push a credible newspaper to publish an article their staff has been has been researching for months just because a gossip website is about to.  Ambition can force newspapers to pepper their stories with “allegedly” and “we cannot verify,” and I get that too.

The fact is this story may have been or could be a career-making story for a Reporter. But only if’ it’s factually correct.  And this is where I stop “getting” the Star; that article hinges on the video.  Without it, and corroborating sources the story falls apart.  And that’s where you  use “allegedly,” and alleged so many times.

It’s a classic argument in journalism; is it more important to be right than first? Or First than right? Social media takes it to a new level.  If you can break a story in 140 characters or less, then it’s immediately on twitter.  If you can write an article in less than an hour, it’s linked on Facebook.  Facts, and truth are casualties; it’s the moment, the drama the quote makes a good story.  I always say if you’re first and wrong, then you look like an idiot.  If you take your time, and get it right then that’s what people remember.

It’s a new low in ethics for this industry.  Is it ethical to use a “drug dealer” as a source when you can’t verify their information? Is it ethical to use a drug dealer period?  What is the line between personal and professional  when you deal with politicians?

The last week has seen Journalism, and the media get a black eye.   And I even get that too.  Just don’t paint us all with the same brush.


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