Friday, May 13, 2005


This article made me angry.

"In an explanation to readers, [Sacramento] Bee Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez wrote that [staff member] Diana Griego Erwin could not adequately answer questions that first arose last month about whether "people mentioned in several recent columns actually existed." "This inquiry came at the end of a six-month string of personal crises in my life," Griego Erwin told The Times in an e-mail, "and, frankly, I didn't have the emotional reserve to answer The Bee's questions quickly enough."

I'm not sure how I should feel. A few conclusions seem to follow from this:

1) People journalists write about should exist.
2) Diana Griego Erwin is a tool whom I do not feel sorry for.
3) There's no crisis of journalistic integrity.

Despite polls showing that "the public," or, rather, "people who get polled," are losing faith in journalists, I find general conclusions about their ethics or integrity difficult to embrace. If newspeople want to have conferences about how they feel they are being viewed, or about technique, or about being a journalist in an age of blogs, iPods, cell phones and Diana Greigo Erwin's Non-Existent Subject Matter, then very well: I hope they succeed. But the public is easily swayed; I, for one, don't have some sort of "Journalistic Confidence Index" that rises and falls with the Jayson Blair stories. I don't freaking care. I get my news from 1,000 different sources.

I still think that our newspapers are "tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen," as Howard Zinn says in A People's History. Newspapers should be blisteringly skeptical of what anyone in power is doing, all the time.

Then again, I could be over or underreacting. Thoughts, anyone?


At 8:36 AM, Blogger E.A.P said...

There are bad workers in every field of business, education, medicine, and government. Why should journalism be any different, because sometimes the worker received a high-profile award years ago? People who go through a divorce are someting like 70% more likely to commit suicide. I'm sure the temptation to succomb to shoddy work is one way of giving herself a less permanent break from the horrible emotional toll of the process. That's where Ms. Griego Erwin should have taken some time off and later returned to work to do a good job, not a half-assed one. HOWEVER, if we expect our news sources to be perfect, we're psycho. Journalism attempts always to portray the truth objectively, but it rarely succeeds, so we all have to be critical thinkers here. Having a running meter of my level of esteem for journalists seems like a great way to come up with generalizations that won't apply well to individuals and thus be useless.

Still, they do those "How Much Do You Trust . . . " surveys on our doctors and law-enforcement officials and politicians, so I guess it's open season for journalists now. That's tough for them. ;)


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