Journalistic integrity — or lack thereof

I’m new at my job. I am. I’ve been working as a government/military affairs/business reporter here for just a few months, and I honestly love it. I really do. I love my job. I love what I do. I love the people I do it with. It’s all great.

But I’m not blogging today to tell you all about how awesome my job is. I’m blog ranting for you today because of the lack of journalistic integrity in OTHER media outlets. Case in point: the local radio station.

<rant>

When I first started working here at this paper, my editor and fellow reporters warned me about the “reporters” from the local radio station. From the way they explained it to me, I kind of assumed it was like a friendly rivalry between news outlets. Like in any big city with more than one paper, there will usually be some sort of competition between those papers to see who breaks news first, who has the best coverage, etc. There’s even a bit of competition between most television stations. But since this is a fairly small town, there’s only one newspaper and no TV stations, leaving us to compete with radio.

Little did I realize that this was not so much a rivalry but a complete lack of journalistic integrity.

My first encounter with this outrageous breach of protocol was with a (pretty major) story about the military post just down the road from here. The post put on a press conference that seemed pretty last minute, so not many news outlets heard about it. Only one other newspaper and a TV station from the big city an hour away were at the press conference with me and we were all gleefully excited about the fact that we had a story that not even the Associated Press could get their hands on before us.

As a quick aside, whenever there’s an event going down on post, the radio station will send a reporter to cover it. Inevitably the reporter will snap a few pictures, record any audio and then split the minute the event is over. It’s not really “reporting” so much as it is “showing up.” Anyway, point is: Radio’s always on post, and the fact that they weren’t that day made my victory all the more sweeter.

Imagine my surprise the next day when I see the story up on their website ANYWAY. And guess what? They plagiarized a sentence from my story. They actually lifted an entire sentence from the story wrote about this event and stuck it in their own crappily written thing (I can’t even bring myself to call it a story), and passed it off as their own.

OK. Whatever. It was a fairly big story and considering that the writing skills of their reporters is subpar to nonexistent, I could sort of understand why they plagiarized. I mean, I didn’t like it, but it was a bit flattering.

But my next encounter with this bullshit was far less welcome.

Yesterday I attended a board of education special meeting. The board was convening to discuss applicants for the open superintendent position and per state law, they were allowed to convene in closed session. None of the news outlets heard about the meeting until Friday afternoon which means A) it was scheduled last minute and B) the board is flailing. But in the press release sent out, the board said straight up that it was going to be a closed session so they could discuss candidates.

Well that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to go. So I went, and I was the only representative of the news media there. The meeting started as an open meeting at 2 p.m., and pretty much immediately the board made a motion to go into closed session. So they did and they stayed in closed session until 5:30 p.m.

So I sat there. I chilled (literally because that room was FREEZING) by myself for three and a half hours, waiting for them to come out of closed session in the vain hopes that they would be able to answer some of my questions afterwards. Well, they didn’t, and I went back to the newsroom feeling like a failure. Fortunately for me, my editor was awesome and helped me turn a seeming non-story into a story. PLUS the simple fact that I showed up to this closed session meeting indicated to the school board that my newspaper was dedicated to covering this story from beginning to end, without skipping any steps in between, unlike the radio station.

Well imagine my surprise when the stinking radio station has a story up on their website about it ANYWAY.

This time, I was livid. I was steaming, fuming, red-faced mad. How dare they make it look like they showed up? How dare they try and profit off of my hard work? How dare they try to make it look like they care when really they’re a bunch of journalistic hacks that can’t be bothered to wait during a meeting?

And what’s worse: They don’t even ATTRIBUTE any of their information! They didn’t say that they got their information from me. They made it seem like they actually went out and got it themselves which is complete BULLSHIT because they didn’t!

I now completely understand this “rivalry.” It’s not so much a rivalry as it is a leeching. They’re profiting off of the hard work of our reporters and passing it off as their own because they’re a bunch of lazy asses who wouldn’t know how to report with integrity and respect to save their lives.

Ugh. OK. I’m done.

</rant>

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