Friday, October 22, 2010

Journalism 101
Professor Vicki Vale

It is important for a reporter to always keep their eyes open for stories. Even the smallest detail can be a clue that could provide the key to a big scoop! Intense focus is necessary for any investigative journalist: find a story and sink your teeth into it with the tenacity of a terrier. Let nothing distract your from your story!

Say, just for a random example, that you're following a string of red herrings related to the idea that a noted billionaire playboy industrialist is also a globe-trotting vigilante. Even though you've already amassed material evidence that said playboy is said vigilante, and even if you've also gone so far as to track down the "secret identities" of a number of his known vigilante associates, well, you just can't run that story until you're absolutely, positively sure that you've exhausted every possible source. Just because Drudge or Gawker or the Huffington Post or the Daily Beast or Fox News or the Post would run a huge story without "Woodward & Bernstein" levels of corroborating evidence doesn't mean that a downrent tabloid reporter who somehow nevertheless manages to support herself for long periods of time working on what are essentially unpaid freelance assignments can't hold herself to higher standards. It's all about ethics and integrity!

If you are called upon to attend a secret super villain auction, well, you should not pass up that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There could be a story anywhere!

A reporter should never, ever take their eyes off the prize, because there could be a story right in front of your very eyes at any moment!

Now, this is very important, I guess you'd even say a "teachable moment:" the inexperienced journalist might see this tableau and immediately jump to the conclusion that this underworld auction is conducting a sale of human chattel - and not just any human chattel, but attractive young female sex slaves. You might think to yourself that there's something interesting here, some kind of "story" with an "angle" to it. Because, even if many thousands of undocumented brown and yellow people are being sold and exploited as de facto slaves within our borders, no one cares about those people, it's only attractive young female kidnapping and murder victims that anyone cares about, right? No matter how many awful things might be going on somewhere else in the world, there's nothing certain to attract so much attention as a lost white girl, right?

Well, that's where you'd be wrong, but it's easy to see how these instincts might lead a freshman journalist astray. You see, it's important for reporters to hold themselves to higher standards than that, to not let the quest for hollow sensationalism get in the way of real investigative journalism. A good story is its own reward, and really, is there anything that could be more important than figuring out a masked vigilante's secret identity?

So, remember, don't ever allow yourself to be distracted in your hunt for the big scoop. There may be stories everywhere, but not every journalist has the focus and discipline necessary to devote their lives to telling the truly important ones.