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Friday, March 24, 2006

overheard in santa fe

We have a feature, in SFR, called "Eavesdropper" where people send in interesting, funny, wacky conversations they've overheard in Santa Fe. I often wish more people eavesdrop on my conversations since I seem to be a magnet for strange conversations. "Conversation" may not be the right word though. It's more that I often find myself on the receiving end of someone else's firmly-held belief and since I have an odd lack of firmly held beliefs I usually try to fashion my face into some kind of expression that conveys interest but more likely just conveys fear.

Example One: Telephone Conversation This Week

Friend: So how are you?
Me: Oh I'm doing—
Friend: Oh your Pluto's in Transit right now isn't it?
Me: What?
Friend: Pluto's in transit for you. It's a very dark planet and there's lots of turmoil, rebirth, the questioning of long-held core beliefs. It's not unlike your Saturn Return.
Me: Oh really?

Example Two, Whole Foods line Yesterday

Women in line: Ow, the thorns on these roses just poked me.
Me: Oh. Well, they're very pretty.
Women: Yes, white is for purity. And we all need purity wherever we can find it, don't we?
Me: Um…yes.
Women: But really love is the best form of purity isn't it?
Me: Um, yah.
Women: Because love is a decision. We make that decision. And then love conquers all.
Me: Uh huh.

In other non-news, I had an interesting back and forth email conversation with Mark Oswald, editor of Albuquerque Journal Santa Fe about our contention that when they follow enterprise stories we've broken, we believe our paper should be cited. This, I believe, is the growing trend in an industry where transparency is very important and where daily newspapers' circulation are on a steady decline. I believe the latter has a lot to do with the lack of context and disclosure daily papers have.
For example, on Feb. 22, we had this story about the Native American vendors' dispute with the Department of Cultural Affairs. We dug this up after a tip, found all the sources, broke the story.
A month later, on March 20, Journal North had this story.
As you can see, the story clearly follows ours, even using a similar, if not close-to-identical set-up.
When this kind of thing happens, either myself or the writer usually jots the daily reporter a note that says, "hey, how come you didn't give us credit for breaking this story." Now the sourcing issue is one that's been huge in the last few years with bloggers and other more contemporary news outlets, but it's not something that seems to have a lot of resonance for many of the old-school journalists. I called Poytner Institute to talk with them about it, because they have a journalism ethics hotline, which we've used several times, particularly when we're looking at the dailies' journalism and we have questions about the way they've reported something, we find it helpful to speak with journalism ethics experts. Anyway, at Poytner they told me that while The Journal (and the New Mex) technically have the right to follow a story without citation of the original paper, it's not "intellectually honest" and it effects the credibility of the paper. Mark's response to me was that this is the way it's been for his 30 years in the business and he doesn't see anything wrong with it. So, there you have it, differing opinions, without which what would this world be?
Still, we plan to point it out to their reporters when we think it's unfair. Mark's contention, to be clear, is that if a paper follows a story but independently verifies all their own reporting, they don't have to credit the paper where the story first appeared. And I am saying, if there's a bus crash and you're the first on the scene and the first to write about it, you don't necessarily get credit for "breaking the story" because everyone would have known about it anyway. But that's not the kinds of stories I'm talking about. It's kind of entertaining arguing with some of the local journalists/editors from the dailies sometimes because they've all been in this biz a lot longer than I have and they act like they have no idea what I'm talking about, like I'm making things up off the top of my head when, in fact, the journalism industry machine, experts, media critics, ombudsmen et. al are talking about these issues ALL THE TIME. And, in fact, it's the lack of transparency in daily journalism that some believe is the reason for its circulation declines.
Anyway, I like defending my feisty writers. I push them hard on the front end so I gotta get their backs on the back end (why does that just not sound right?)
One of the editors I emailed with about this, the editor of the venerable Bay Guardian, said The New York Times had even changed its policies to require citation of the first paper to report a story after they had taken heat on this very issue, but I haven't had time to research that. You know, what with the actual work I have to do.
I'd reprint my entire correspondence with Mark here but given that it was clearly designated, by me to him, as a private correspondence, I'm not sure that would be ethical.
Nor do I know if anyone would be interested.
OK, back to work. I've got a dinner party tonight, followed by another run at Bedrock, the new DJ party at The Lodge, later. And then much, much work this weekend. It's Annual Manual time again.