Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where There's Smoke, There's Anonymous Sources

Anonymous sources are wonderful. No names to spell correctly, no towns or occupations to identify. Every quote is a gem of relevance that fully supports the reporter's prepackaged premise, lede.

Such is the case with today's Big Story (not): "Smoke Out ... a day to help smokers quit" by Susan Hoffman. But even before the array of "one woman said" bits, Hoffman seems to making it up, from the very start.
Smokers huddle close to the walls of a building, or sit together under a shelter far from the door.
Hoffman doesn't tell readers which building she saw, which "shelter" she visited or when she made this foray into smokers' huddles.

For starters, Arcadia has shelters? Pray tell: are they of the bus, bomb or homeless type? Not a one, as far as we know.

For seconds, here in Our Little Town, chawing, smoking, and spitting are considered fundamental rights. Hoffman's Big City stereotype of huddled outcasts is pretty hard to find, if it exists at all. Outdoor smoking in these parts typically happens in parking lots, leaning up against a pickup truck, or under one of our magnificent grandfather oaks. Tell me where Hoffman found huddled outcasts, please.

It has made many smokers paranoid. None of the smokers approached for comments realized the Great American Smokeout day was approaching, but [sic] none planned to quit, even for a day.

"I haven't thought about quitting at all," said one man. "I enjoy it too much." One woman said she had actually quit for five months while she was in the military service and had no choice. "But as soon as I got out, I strated right back up again."

Several said the cost of cigarette is not much of a deterrent here. "But if I lived in New Jersey or up north where it's $5 or $6 for ap ack, then I'd think about it," one said. Most of them said they don't think about smoking while they're working. "As long as we're busy, you don't even have time to think about it," one woman said.

And who, exactly, is "one woman" who speaks for all of the smokers? Old Word Wolf is just cynical enough to think she smells, not smoke, but a story the writer merely phoned in. That is, Hoffman was ordered to write a story that's not news but the calendar and an organizational agenda handed her editors an easy topic. And rather than actually report, Hoffman took the easy way out, complete with faked stereotypes and faked sources to tell faked news.

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