Standards and Priorities

Virgotex sendsthis along, which is surprisingly germane to a conversation I was having in meatspace this weekend:

On Thursday afternoon, when word came about the shootings that left 13 people dead atFort Hood,
just up the road from Austin, it seemed like a made-to-order test for
The Texas Tribune, a brand new 12-person Web-based newsroom.

They scrambled the jets, made plans, and then — stayed put.

The big coverage on the site,,
on Friday was not about the aftermath of the shootings, but the 50
highest paid state employees and an exclusive about a state
representative who had switched parties.

The Texas Tribune was
conceived and devised to cover the politics and policy of Texas state
government. During lunch on Friday at the Roaring Fork on Congress
Avenue in Austin, seven staff members recalled the previous day, when
the siren of a big story blew.

“We were all sitting around
talking excitedly about what we were going to do with it,” said Elise
Hu, who came to The Tribune from KVUE-TV. “And then you could see
Matt,” she said, indicating her colleague Matt Stiles next to her at
lunch, “was about to blow his stack.”

“It wasn’t our story.
Should we have just been one more news organization rushing to Fort
Hood? I don’t think so,” said Mr. Stiles, who joined the Web site from
The Houston Chronicle.

Now, they could have done the usual. Which would have been to climb onto the top of the giant pig fuck the story turned into, try to win the morning and the afternoon, fail to get anything the AP and the American-Statesman didn’t get, and then bitch in public about how awful pile-on journalism is and how hard it is to have to do it all the time but hey, what can you do? Instead they stood alone.

The trouble with doing that, of course, is that the world is blowing up on TV in front of you and the instinct, honed by years of abject stupidity, is to run towards the thing that’s on fire. I know the feeling well. It’s not always a bad idea. But when you’re wired for something else, have the guts to say that and stick to it. Be who you are and don’t be ashamed of it. The only thing makes people feel you’ve got something to apologize for is you apologizing.

Eventually, the story will come to where you’ve been all along and then you’ll be miles out front and nobody can catch you. Nobody gave a shit back in 2005 when Doug Feith was exposed by the liberal bloggers as the crook that he was, but boy was everybody interested when Congress finally came to the same conclusion two years later. Not only were we fucking right, we were fucking right way early and that gave us all a hell of a jump once the rest of the press caught up.


5 thoughts on “Standards and Priorities

  1. Seeing papers try to “win” the Ft. Hood story with wire copy was really frustrating. It’s one thing to push your coverage if it’s really good, I think, but when sites use their SEO muscle to push SOP wire stuff it sort of makes me ill. Might be overreacting a bit, but it makes me irritable about the Internet.

  2. The thing that bothered me most about the media coverage was the way Gov. Perry and Sen Kay Baily had to get their mugs on to deliver news updates. It quickly went from updating constituents to politicking rather quickly… if it was ever even about anything at all except political gamesmanship for them.

  3. Good comment.
    Good job the Texas Tribune did, too, IMNVHO.
    About “running toward the thing that’s on fire” … yeah. That’s actually what I do. First as a first responder in my late teens in the military, later as a reporter, and now, again, as a blogger.
    What’s killer is I think the TT needs to get out front on a story they’re not touching, not because it isn’t the Austin scene but because it’s going to be a big deal in Texas politics (as well as Texas criminal justice) in the not-too-distant future.
    Now that a Schleicher County jury has convicted the first of the dozen FLDS leaders indicted for child rape, sexual assault, bigamy, and other related charges, how does the State of Texas propose to deal, on a policy basis and a political basis, with the criminal cult that invaded us in ’05?

  4. As an erstwhile reporter, one thing that tired me about the daily/hourly/minutely news biz was the craze for superficial “scoops” and the accompanying loss of perspective and lack of reflection. Rushing around for crumbs of information seemed to me a waste of time. Getting jostled around in the media mob (literally) just to get the same glib soundbite everyone else was getting also seemed a waste of time and energy. So good on the Tex Tribune for keeping their wits about them and keeping their priorities straight. The real story behind Ft. Hood will come out in investigation. But who does that any more?
    It is true that someone needs to go vacuum up as many facts as possible, get accounts of what happened, put together timelines, see if all the stories check out. You need as many boots on the ground as possible because there will be dissembling from the powers that be. It’s just that not every media outfit needs to be part of it.

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