A Tarnished Jewell May Help Journalists Shine

Article excerpt

I believe that we are entering a new era in the world of

journalism. Not that it was bad before, but as with most

professions, the goal for journalists is to just keep getting

better.

The coverage of Richard Jewell, the man who was cleared of any

criminal role in the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in

Atlanta, sets a stunning example of why fast is not always best

when it comes to responsible journalism.

In fact, Steve Geimann" president of the Society of

Professional Journalists, has been outwardly critical of the

Jewell case.

"In this case, many reporters and editors appeared to check

their tools in a closet . . . the press should not follow in

lock step by regurgitating what police and federal agents leak

to reporters," Geimann recently told journalists.

I think it should be a prerequisite for every big city and

national reporter to spend some time in small-town America. Dan

Rather, for example, could come to Keystone Heights for a spell.

In small towns, subjects of news stories become more than mere

names on a police blotter or a court document or given to you by

an informant.

After all, the individual or event you are reporting about may

deeply touch the lives of your neighbor, your friend, the parent

of your kid's best friend or the person you sit next to in

church.

I will never forget the day I was invited to go on a major Clay

County drug bust with detectives and deputies. We'd been to

several homes already and as the "bad guys" were handcuffed and

placed in patrol cars, I snapped pictures, imagining how the

local weekly newspaper would be received that week with photos

of these thugs plastered across the front page. …