Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reilly: Quoting People He Didn't Interview

Steve Reilly’s report on a water-quality evaluation issued by a multi-state watchdog group ran today, Sept. 8. Without a time frame mentioned in the lede, however, the story startled 6 a.m.-readers awake when one of Reilly's sources says, “The report released today...”

Wow, that was fast! Well, maybe the water-quality report came out yesterday, and DeSoto readers don’t get news on Monday? Nope.

The story behind the day's big headline is that Reilly glossed over the little detail that Gulf Coast Restoration Network’s news hit the streets almost two weeks ago, on August 28.

Since then, Reilly has been busy interviewing sources, right? Well, not exactly.

The “today” reference comes from a state official who criticized the report in a prepared statement the day it was released -- "today" being August 28. Despite the reality that at least two other area newspapers and a radio station have already used the same quote, word for word, and acknowledged that the sources were quoted from prepared statements, Reilly chooses to quote the bureaucrat as if reporter and source had actually talked.

Reilly appears to do the same with at least two other people he quotes in the same story, representatives of state-wide and regional environmental groups: lots of words but no effort to tell readers that the "speakers" had issued prepared statements and weren't replying to Reilly's insightful questions.

This kind of reporting by omission does more for the writer’s ego than it does to help readers get a fair sense of what happened when and their ability to judge responses to the event. This writer deliberately creates the false impression that he made an effort to “dig,” as it used to be called. In fact, the writer took a week and a half to round up a lot of press releases that he stitched together in a way calculated to mislead.

1 comment:

  1. Well, this as good a time as any to mention what I thought to be a good analysis from an unlikely source.

    Commenting on journalism, Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said, "The once esteemed 4th [sic] estate of our nation and the protector of our freedoms and a watchdog of our rights has passed away after a long struggle with a crippling and debilitating disease of acute dishonesty aggravated by advanced laziness and the loss of brain function.”

    Having worked at an SCMG, I can attest of the advanced laziness by editors and the loss of brain function in the hiring selection of people to "play" reporters.

    As always OWW, thanks for your vigilance.