Quote of the day
This comment, on a post by Charles Arthur, sums up the most frustrating thing about working in a newsroom:
Once a story has run in one mainstream outlet, it’s put up to conference *before* it’s given to a writer to check. Once it’s been sold to conference, the news desk can’t nix it without looking silly, and in all probability getting shouted at, so they have no interest at all in listening to any journalist who tells them it’s bollocks. The journalist will, in all likelihood, be told to write it anyway, or fudge it, and may, to boot, get a reputation for being ‘awkward’.
A brief bit of background for non-journalists: “conference” means the editorial conference during which the senior editors gather together and decide what stories matter most. The editors will instruct the news desk team to follow particular angles on particular stories; the news desk team then go back to the desk and start giving instructions to reporters.
Karl’s comment is spot-on: many were the times when I witnessed a reporter being shouted at or treated with scorn because he or she had followed up a story and found it to be full of holes. The news editors didn’t want to have to go back to the senior staff and tell them that, so they would force the reporter to try again and find another way of backing up the story.
In many cases, the decision to follow up the story was made by a senior editor solely because he (in my experience, it was always a “he”) had seen it reported elsewhere and didn’t want his news organisation to be seen to be left behind: the story had to be covered, no matter how wrong or ridiculous it was.