Should investigative journalist be allowed to blog about the topic which they are investing? This is particularly the case in one newspaper towns like Buffalo.
This question surfaced during a conversation between me and my dad about the One Sunset Restaurant scandal. While devouring a couple of Wendy’s chicken sandwiches, my father questioned the credibility of the Buffalo News’s coverage of the story.
He said he had problems with the reporter covering and also blogging about the same topic. In his view, blogging about a story you were also investigating blurred the line between “detached” reporting and opinion. A news story is not a commentary.
Of course, most reporters blog, but that is not the question. Should investigative reporters be allowed to blog about the story being investigated? If reporter is investing corruption in a local bank, should that reporter be allowed to blog on the topic, before his or investigation is completed?
Should he or she offer their opinion about bank corruption, while they are still investigating the bank corruption, or should they be forced to wait until their investigation of the issue is completed and their “detached” stories on the subject are written?
The conversation with dad made me think of another, perhaps more intriguing question, Can people trust a supposedly “detached” and “unbiased” article when they know the reporters stance on the story.
Let me put it another way, I write a series on the corruption of a local bank president. Before the series is over, I write a blog discussing my hatred for corrupt bankers. Can you trust my story?
You can’t and you should not have to try. Newspapers have the responsibility to bring you the news, not their opinion of the news. The reason is that newspapers have the power to make you think about stories in a particular way.
Newspapers and reporters are the shapers of public opinion. When reporters tell a story, they are also telling people how to think about that story, how to look at the issue.
So, there should be a clear separation between reporting and commenting…
This is especially true in one newspaper towns, where there is only one source and outlet of print news. In these places, reporters have a very special responsibility to keep their opinions separate from the news.
My brother, who is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, says reporting is changing. Today, reporters are asked to breakdown and analyze a story, not just tell the facts and timelines.
But analyzing is not commenting. Analyzing can still be “detached” and offer a balanced view. Commentaries, on the other hand, are about presenting your viewpoint in the most persuasive and provocative way.
Investigative reporters should investigate. Not blog.