Conflicting interests: Discovering the truth

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news typewriterToday, in the midst of other responsibilities, I’ll continue the review and research for the sensitive story described in the previous posting. Good journalism takes plenty of time and energy, especially when the writer must deal with complex issues and strong emotions reflecting the perspectives of intelligent people advocating different interests.

This stuff is truly different from the revenue-generating advertising features (where stories are written to satisfy the advertisers’ interests and only publish positive news reflecting their perspectives.) It is also not the safe, easy, and quick stuff of reproducing press releases or canned and prepared statements. One really good story with just a few lines of text can require several working days in effort. Good journalism is expensive and is relatively rare, but I think it provides the foundation for specialized trade and industry publications and media, because certainly the general press cannot delve into these issues effectively. (I can imagine a daily newspaper reporter or local television editor trying to figure out who really cares about prompt payment legislation for the construction industry.)

I have made it my practice to focus the “real journalism” efforts in our publications on stories that the general news media cannot cover effectively, but do not harp on or seek to cause harm to individual businesses or organizations. So we generally don’t republish news releases outlining safety violation fines, and don’t seek to match stories such as a construction site fire in a nearby community where a crane operator had to be rescued by military helicopter. (However, that story may provide some content for another story, on the debate about changing building codes to allow different building materials.)

Probably the top priority stories involve politics, disputing perspectives within the industry, and conflicts/tensions between relevant industry associations. Here, I need to tread carefully but firmly — the goal is not to burn bridges but to fairly report on the conflict and outcomes.

There is a business reason behind the real journalism, of course. It enhances credibility and readership, and this increases the effectiveness of the softer, advertising-focused stuff in our publications.

But it takes a lot of work, nonetheless.


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