Friday, June 15, 2012

Q the Eye/06.15.12

Dear LakeCountyEye,

I just flew in from Metropolis, Illinois. I landed my first job with a newspaper up here in the big city. What advice do you have for the soon-to-be star reporter?

Clark Kent
Dear Clark Kent (if that's your real name),

Ὥρος HōrosThe most important thing the top-drawer journalist -- like your LakeCountyEye -- does is cultivate & prioritize good sources. Without a buttress of sources, a reporter is not much more than a bloviator.

Here's how your LakeCountyEye does it:

At the the top of the heap are primary sources. These are sources of breaking and reliable news. Your LakeCountyEye's primary sources are largely unsigned emails, most of which seem to come from Nigeria.

At a step removed are the secondary sources. Your LakeCountyEye skims over all the local newspapers every day for story ideas worth stealing.

Further down the food chain are the tertiary sources, aka Internet blogs. Take everything your LakeCountyEye said about the print media above and replace it with the word blog.

Finally at the bottom of the totem pole are blog comments. Yes, even an anonymous snarky remark posted at the bottom of an anonymous snarky blog can be a source of news. Although you may be warned that making a blog comment into a news story is like taking your cousin to the prom.

A good example are the the feckless Francophobes over at the McHenryCountyBlog who posted a story based solely on comments seen on an Internet blog:
The Question of the Day Wednesday on Capitol Fax Blog was Who is the worst politician in Illinois? Locals with nominations were
•Joe Walsh
•Jack Franks
Joe Walsh & Jack Franks Get Nominations for Worst Legislator Designation
More than 70 tongue-in-cheek comments were posted on the CapitolFaxBlog, and nearly a quarter of them mentioned Joe Walsh. One mentioned Jack Franks. To maintain that important veneer of journalistic objectivity, the McHenryCountyBlog noted that many of the comments were directed toward Walsh. And then -- wait for it -- the (long) comment about Franks was lifted and reproduced in toto.

If you're a newbie journalist just starting out, the takehome is clear. Making a story out of a comment on an Internet blog is not quite like taking your cousin to the prom. It is more like going to the prom with your sock puppet.

If you are an elected official, or a previously elected official, or just a private citizen under indictment, send your political questions to Q the Eye c/o ...

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