Lessons in newsroom decorum
That was me. I was one of the people who cheered in The Seattle Times news meeting Monday when it was announced that presidential adviser...
Seattle Times staff columnist
That was me.
I was one of the people who cheered in The Seattle Times news meeting Monday when it was announced that presidential adviser Karl Rove had resigned.
The reaction to this bit of national news made national news, kicking off a Web-based debate about whether journalists should bring their personal views to the office. In the beginning, the Times' own David Postman and The Stranger's blog weighed in. By Thursday, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz was calling the episode an "embarrassment." Rove himself laughed about it on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.
Times Executive Editor David Boardman was dismayed at our outburst.
In an internal memo to the newsroom, he wrote, "A good newsroom is a sacred and magical place in which we can and should test every assumption, challenge each other's thinking, ask the fundamental questions those in power hope we will overlook.
"... It is about independent thinking and sound, facts-based journalism," he continued, "the difference between what we do and the myopic screed that is passed off as 'advocacy journalism' these days."
Not buying that? I can't blame you. The hallowed halls of journalism that I was privileged to enter more than 20 years ago are looking more and more like the New York subway. The walls covered in bloggers' scrawl, the platform crowded with any yahoo with a camera and an open mike. All are headed to your computer screen or television for the 15 seconds you'll give them before moving on to the next hot spot.
That's not how we do things at this newspaper.
Here, every morning, some 20 smart, educated, well-read and diverse people gather around a table and talk. We offer opinions on how stories were approached, written and presented. We say what worked, what didn't, and how we can do it better next time.
In doing all that, we share a part of ourselves as taxpayers, parents, consumers and members of the community. I saw something. I know someone. I heard. I read. I remember.
In the course of 30 minutes, those ideas and plans are distilled into the news of the day.
I wasn't admonished on Monday; as a columnist, people expect me to have opinions.
I cheered in that meeting because I think Karl Rove is a dangerous man who has done enough whispering in President Bush's ear.
We are at war. Some $37 billion in federal funds have been spent just for the "reconstruction" of Iraq, even though a majority of Americans want their sons, daughters, spouses and tax dollars out. Bush's resolve proves we're screaming into the wind.
So you bet I cheered at that meeting. I cheered because I thought I could.
But I shouldn't have. It lacked consideration for other people in the room who may have other views about Karl Rove and George Bush, and held their tongues. It also flew in the face of the standard of objectivity that we as journalists try to uphold every day. Worse, it validates every fear people have about the media.
All these years, and I'm still learning.
And still passionate. I just need to choose my spots.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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