There has always been news and there will always be news. Newspapers? Well, we’ll have to see about that, but news and the conveyance of some sort will always be around, and the latest of these is coming from the Voldemort of traditional journalists: the blogger.
The blogger doesn’t have to double-source his facts. The blogger doesn’t have to remain objective. The blogger can even be wrong from time to time. The blogger bats for average. The newspaper strives for perfection.
But here’s the thing, the blogger usually gets the story out first.
Can you imagine what the world would be like for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein if they had to battle an Internet-age dirt-scooper who always talked to Deep Throat 10 minutes before they did? That’s really what we deal with nowadays.
Bloggers — and there are some very good ones out there — get to pick and choose the news they cover. Many of them have an agenda and a place at one side of the aisle or the other. If they are a liberal site, they may turn their noses up at Martha Shoffner news. If they are conservative, Mark Darr news will not interest them. There seem to be a growing number of knuckleheads in both parties, so it is hard to keep all of those plates spinning, and a newspaper needs to address it all.
We try to address it when it is verified. We try to address it when it is confirmed with sources who will go on the record. Many bloggers don’t have to do that or do not want to do that. It doesn’t mean their stories are wrong, just not completely vetted.
You’d actually be surprised at what we know inside the newsroom walls. We talk about things that never make it to print, usually because it cannot be confirmed or because it may not be suitable for publication. But rest assured that some of these elected officials, business leaders and community pillars are not always doing the right thing. We know it.
Which brings me to the saga of Circuit Judge Mike Maggio and the funds donated to his campaign by a prior defendant. Our reporter, Courtney Spradlin, had been dealing with the possibility of a connection since the negligence trial of a Greenbrier nursing home last year. As she was writing her story, a blog post emerged with some of the same information. She continued, and we posted our story online later that evening.
Then this blogger made insinuations through social media that we stole his information for our own purposes. When he found out that his source was our source and had been speaking with Spradlin independently for quite some time, he didn’t back down.
Let’s get a couple things straight: this blogger has been doing some excellent work, and on a previous story, we credited his site. But in this case, Spradlin and the rest of our news team worked (and are continuing to work) independent of any work from any other sites. Other reporters at other publications are as well. The viewing of those sites is usually done after the work here is completed.
A community newspaper is placed in a difficult position when it comes to investigative reporting. We want to dig up dirt to expose those who may not be operating in the community’s best interest. But we also want to let you know when your kids make the honor roll. We also want to give you the list of events happening in Simon Park. We want to give you the happy along with the hard hitting.
Unlike a blogger, we have to be completely sure we can back up everything before we release it. It makes our jobs tougher because, much like a blog site, people will believe the first thing they see. If a blogger accuses us of piggy-backing on his story, it may not matter what the truth is afterwards. Many will choose to just believe the first thing they hear.
There is talk here about creating a site simply to address whispers and rumors and other rumblings. Maybe if we chose to talk about the Conway Christmas Tree there in August, more people would have paid attention. We did, in fact, report on the controversial tree last summer, but no one seemed to care. Only after a blogger wagged his finger did people accuse us of not reporting it diligently. If a Cabin-centric blog site does happen, be assured that we will always make sure everything is above board.
What we strive for in these news stories is to reach the truth. It should never be a race for the truth, because the truth will stay there no matter who gets there first.
(Ricky Duke is the editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)