Thursday, June 05, 2003

Media bashing, cont.

RE: The departure of Raines and Boyd from the NYT and this exchange between Glenn Reynolds and my friend and former boss Virginia Postrel:

Virginia 1, Instapundit 0. I've been a professional journalist for 14 years now, and though I've spent my entire career (save 4 unpleasant months as a business reporter) writing opinion, commentary or analysis, I have tried to win readers over with persuasive arguments backed by information. It's not always easy to do so in 200-500 words, and there are times the people you're writing about deserve to be hit over the back of the head with a rhetorical 2-by-4 rather than wooed with sweet logic.

That said, I have nothing but admiration for the people who report the news well in print, even though I'm often (if not usually) at odds with their worldview. The ability to schmooze, cajole, woo, threaten, and whatever else it takes to cultivate sources and get them to say interesting and useful things is very hard work ... and then organize and present the information in a compelling fashion, is a set of talents worthy of respect. I know. Virginia gave me my first paying job, at Reason, soon after she became editor, and back then, outside libertarian circles, the magazine was invisible. (That changed as she moved the magazine into the opinion elite.) I recall how difficult it was to get ANYBODY who was either unaware of Reason (or hostile to its philosophy) to talk, return phone calls, whatever. We had no clout, so no one felt obligated to pay us any mind.

The situation is different with local papers doing local stories, particularly publications with credibility and/or influence (meaning, typically, circulation). In part, folks will talk to reporters under those circumstances because ignoring them is not a good idea. Politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders can't allow unfavorable information to sit there in the ether without giving it their own spin. Also, you have to appreciate vanity; people do love to see their names in the paper.

But that doesn't make wrangling the info out of them any easier. It's very difficult, stressful, trying work. Still, when you really nail a story or get that killer quote, the rush you get is unparalleled.

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