Saturday, March 07, 2015

In The Tyee - my piece on why journalists shouldn't be friends with the people they cover

Journalists: Never Befriend a Source

Columnist's athlete admission shows favourable coverage -- not good reporting.
By Paul Willcocks, Today,
A too-cozy relationship between a journalist and source hurts coverage.Flickr photo: by Mr.TinDC


It probably wasn't the point he wanted to make, but Globe and Mail sportswriter Cathal Kelly set out the definitive argument for keeping a studied distance between journalists and the people they write about.
Kelly was reacting to a rant by Toronto Maple Leaf player Phil Kessel about how unfairly the media has been treating the team's captain Dion Phaneuf.
Maybe that's true, Kelly wrote. But the players don't treat the reporters like people. If the athletes were nicer, learned journalists' names, pretended to be interested in them, then the coverage would be kinder too.
Chat with a reporter in a coffee shop lineup or schmooze in the dressing room, and everything changes.
''Once that's happened, you'll never rip that guy in print,'' Kelly writes. ''You'll criticize, but the ripping days are over. He's not just someone you cover any more. He's someone you know.”
It was a weird piece. Readers think journalists are doing a professional job of covering sports or business or politics. They don't expect a few fake pleasantries from the subject -- or their absence -- determines what and how the journalist writes...