Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today’s Lesson: Best to be a Jerk

I didn’t speak up today about this, but I thought I’d weigh in with my own opinion. I think it is better to be a jerk in the journalistic world.  We are the ones who should “challenge the prevailing attitudes” rather than accept them passively.  We need to ask, “Should this be done? Who is at fault?”  There is still a need for watchdogs to dig at the truth.

While doing the reading in BNW this week and listening to today’s discussion, I kept weighing what The Post and Courier’s main concern should be: timing or truth?  Should their community image wholly/partly inform their editorial decisions?  I agree that there should be “grievance” pieces following a tragedy; to not do so is bad business for a newspaper.  But I felt that the hard questions that lead to the truth of the matter – that there were mistakes made by the fire department – were not addressed soon enough. 

I remember the coverage following the sugar refinery explosion in Port Wentworth.  Questions came first.  What caused it?  Who’s responsible? How many died?  The failure of OSHA to inspect the plant’s numerous violations became national news the following day.  A small southern city’s grief was expressed and shared, but it did not overshadow the truth of the matter – that the tragedy could have been avoided.


  1. Erica,
    I was wondering what you thought about this. The sugar refinery makes a fascinating point of comparison -- it would be really interesting to look at the SMN's coverage of that event and see how it was handled differently than the Charleston tragedy was.

    And I agree completely that the media should err on the side of being a jerk, although many forces push some of us the other way . . . It's certainly a topic worthy of more discussion.

  2. I have lived my life understanding and valuing the concept of truth. Quite frequently while I was raising my son (and still to this day), I would remind him that i would rather hear a bad truth than a good lie. Truth is not always pretty and comfortable but it always the truth. That being said, I think it's a journalist's responsibility to report the truth in a timely fashion even if it means looking like a jerk!