Pittsburgh’s two daily papers are swarming over today’s story that Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident — while not wearing a helmet.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette devoting at least 10 reporters to the story. That paper’s Web site is reportedly grabbing seven times the usual traffic for most Mondays.
“We have a lot of space set aside in print for this,” said Susan Smith, Post-Gazette managing editor. “We are also gearing up to have some extra things on the Web.” She said a Web chat with sports editor Jerry Micco was set for 4 p.m., while a slide show of Roethlisberger’s career was being posted as well.
Smith said Post-Gazette reporters working the story included four sportswriters, one business writer, three local news reporters, and two entertainment writers. “We will determine by 4:30 or 5 p.m. what the news is,” she said.
Emphasis mine, because, honestly. TEN reporters?
So much for all my arguments about how shrinking the newsroom is hurting journalism. Apparently when the story’s important enough, for example, when it’s about a millionaire who crashes a motorcycle, there’s no trouble finding all the resources newspapers can’t seem to locate when there’s an investigation to be done.
(And I’m aware that this is a big story in Pittsburgh, and I’m aware that journalism isn’t a zero-sum game. Still. TEN REPORTERS. Imagine those story meetings. I can, and it makes my head go all fuzzy and muffled inside.)
This reminds me of the time a baseball fan in Chicago acted like an idiot, and the city papers went apeshit, and an out of state friend e-mailed me about the “ethical dilemma” of reporters naming the moron.
A real “ethical dilemma” would have been why three reporters had been dedicated to the story at one city daily, and seemingly the entire staff of another. A real “ethical dilemma” wouldn’t have been the usual coffeehouse crap about the definition of “public figure” and other stuff the profs can figure out for us later. A real “ethical dilemma” would have been the cubic tonnage of shit we can’t get anybody to pay attention to because everybody’s out chasing some dumbass who chased a baseball.
I’m aware now, as I was then, that fundamental questions of story emphasis and celebrity worship, not to mention a level of local focus that would make the Beaver County Tidbit look cosmopolitan, are not hot topics for the latest journalism panels. If, however, somebody would like to take on the question of why we need ten guys covering one guy who didn’t wear a helmet, I’ll attend and sit in the front row. We can cant all we want about the influence of political bias in news stories; until we start talking about laziness, parochialism and overkill, we’re just yammering to ourselves about nothing.