Monday, February 15, 2016

Lazy news: expressway to obsolescence

Public relations people are accustomed to news outlets using only a portion of their news releases. Often, editors and producers publish only the essential facts, just enough to fill a news hole.

Paul Hermans from nl [GFDL
 or CC-BY-SA-3.0, from
Wikimedia Commons
When broadcast news producers do this, they often direct viewers and listeners to their websites for the fuller story. This saves air time or news print.

But, when there's only a truncated version of the information, it tells me I'm a victim of lazy journalism. One example: a recent news item from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, announcing $35 million in construction grants to a number of private colleges. 

One Rochester TV station's online story listed an incomplete handful of colleges receiving these funds, including Rochester Institute of Technology. Emphasize the local angle? Sure. Except several other local colleges -- among them St. John Fisher College and Nazareth College -- also got gifts from Cuomo. In all, more than two dozen colleges and universities are getting grants from the state. Not just the seven on the TV station's web page.

Here's the thing: I had to track down the full list of colleges receiving grants on the governor's website. Which took me less than 30 seconds -- and I haven't worked in a newsroom in decades.

Thirty seconds that the TV station's web producer couldn't find time to do. Or even provide a link for viewers to follow.

That's lazy journalism. No excuses. Blaming the AP, which fed the story to the local TV outlet, doesn't absolve the local producer from taking half-a-minute to find the full story, including all the colleges and the dollar amounts they received. 

Just as I did.

Look, if you want me to do my own newsgathering, that's fine. I'll stop visiting your station's website or your newspaper's pages and no longer deal with your incomplete reporting and nuisance pop-up ads. I'll use Flipboard, Google News, or Facebook's nascent news app to view news that's important to me.

If you cut corners or file an incomplete story, that's your choice. But not bothering to give your audience a complete story that requires virtually no editorial lifting is just slacking.