I majored in journalism in college. I like to joke that I got my BS in BS. I worked in the field for over a year before I decided I didn’t like certain aspects of the job. My breaking point came about this time of year. I had to cover a car accident… where I had to stand on the side of the road, taking pictures and asking questions, while I could hear kids crying from inside the mangled car, and I could see Christmas presents stacked up in the back window. I felt like such a vulture.
I still love writing (as evidenced by writing a blog!) and I still love many aspects of journalism!
However, this week I was presented with something I hate about the job: getting the scoop at the expense of anyone and anything.
My university, Texas A&M, fired their head football coach this week. I started reading the rumblings about it as a possibility already Wednesday night. Twitter is a great place to get the “scoop” — but keeping in mind that what you’re reading is primarily rumors. Sure, I know the people to follow whose rumors tend to be spot-on. But at the end of the day, they are rumors and discussion.
I look to newspapers — the media — to report the facts as they happen.
I repeat. AS THEY HAPPEN.
Thursday, the Twitter-verse exploded after a blog post was run on the Austin American Statesman’s website, stating that “Mike Sherman will be fired as Texas A&M’s head coach either later today or early Friday morning, the American-Statesman has learned.”
WILL BE FIRED. Not has been fired. But will be fired. Information given by an anonymous source. In comments, the defense of the article came that its not anything Aggies hadn’t been discussing as rumors the day before.
In a statement from Sherman after he had been fired, he stated, “It was disappointing to me because my family found out before I did, because it was released (through a leak in the media) before I was told. I think we’re better than that.”
I can easily point fingers at the anonymous source as being out of line leaking the information to the media. I hope this source is found out and reprimanded, because this move makes the university look horrible.
But in the same breath, getting the scoop and running it in the media offended Sherman. And, forgive me, but to me this goes against the Journalism Code of Ethics. Specifically to Minimize Harm. Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect. Running an article that someone is going to be fired before they’ve actually been fired leaves me sick to my stomach. Can you imagine opening the newspaper and reading that you’re going to be fired. Or that your spouse is about to lose their job?? Can you imagine the punch in the gut?
It leaves me angry and sickened!
Past that… what if last minute they decided to hold off on the firing. Either not do it, or at the very least wait until after the bowl game. Suddenly you’ve run a misleading piece, done harm, and you’re left with egg all over your face. It’s just irresponsible.
Yes, this is a blog report, not an “official article.” But its run on the Austin American Statesman website. The post reads as an article. Its my opinion, it should be held to the same code of ethics as any other piece run on that newspaper site.