Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Here's a letter sent to us by a young reporter.
The person has asked to remain anonymous.

"Question: What does a reporter do when a decision to disagree to voice a piece of writing, which was edited by the Head of News, has been labeled as “tantamount to gross insubordination.”
What should a reporter do when the editorial actions of the Head of News for the above indicated article, which were described as “legitimate,” need to be met with opposition because these actions do not appear to be in the best interest of the organization and the news article does not reflect well on the credibility of the organization to produce a fair and comprehensive account of a particular event.
How do you protect the cornerstone of the credibility of the organization, as well as that of the journalist, without facing victimization?
Please provide insight for (future) reporters who may encounter such a challenge."

And here's our response:
Well it seems that this situation is not as cut and dried as you believe.
You did not indicate that you were at the centre of this situation, but if you were, here's something that you should always remember: pick your battles wisely.
While we applaud you taking the high road and wanting to "protect the cornerstone of the credibility of the organization", you may not agree with us, but protecting the company's integrity is not your role. That's for the company's board of directors and lawyers, and your manager has to answer to them.
Your manager was given the mandate to run the newsroom in a particular way and if you are asked to do something then you should try to come to some sort of compromise if you feel so strongly about the situation.

Could you have asked for a compromise by requesting that someone else voice the story, or whether the script could have been changed to a voice over? We are asking these questions because of course we have not seen the script or the story on the air, so we are going with the information you have provided.
We are also unable to say whether indeed voicing the script would have damaged your reputation.
If your manager felt so strongly about the story, then it would have gone to air with or without you, so if you did the story, then you could have made a note and gone on record as objecting to the way the story was written, and perhaps taken it higher than your manager.

But you also have to be aware that as a junior reporter, you run the risk of being victimised for the slightest perceived slight against your manager, and you also run the risk of having your manager and in turn his or her manager close ranks against you.

In the end, do you think the strong stance was worth it?