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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When is a story not a story -- even if it's on TV?

Earlier this evening I assigned a reporter to write a story.
Five minutes ago I killed it.
It was, it turned out, a non-story. But I want to tell you about it because I expect to get calls tomorrow asking why we are “protecting” a local official.
Here’s what happened. One of the TV news channels had a short report during tonight’s 6 o’clock news saying an investigation was under way into possible lewd messages from a high-level local public official. Because the person named is in The Saratogian readership area, we needed to look into it.
The reporter called the person’s boss, who basically said he had received no complaints, official or unofficial, about anything of the kind. The boss said a TV reporter had called asking about alleged lewd messages, that he hadn’t heard anything about it and said he’d look into it (hence the “investigation”).
Now what?
The reporter wrote the story, and it was missing something: Substance. It was tantamount to putting the person in the position of denying a vague, anonymous and unofficial allegation. Would you like to be in that position, in print?
We have an obligation to serve our readers, responsibly. When something appears on TV about our community, we know some people will look to their local paper for more information. Sometimes, like this time, the only story is that there was a story on the TV -- and that’s just not enough. If there is indeed nothing to the story, we will have avoided smearing someone’s character. But if it develops that there is something to the story, rest assured we’ll pursue it and print it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you posted was a non-story about a non-story.

Where is the front page in the on-line version of the paper today?

June 9, 2011 at 9:22 AM 
Blogger Fresh Ink said...

It's there. It was posted as quickly as we could pull it together. And the story will continue to unfold.

June 9, 2011 at 11:33 PM 

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