As Kermit the Frog used to say, “It’s not easy being green.” Substitute “a journalist” for green and that’s a fair description of those who toil in the Fourth Estate.
We’re too liberal, too biased, too ignorant, and/or obviously incompetent. We get stories wrong or we just make ’em up. We need to be replaced with folks who are more conservative, less biased and a lot smarter.
Or maybe we’re too business-friendly, too cozy with powerful developers, too male, too white, too old.
As a somewhat liberal, somewhat conservative and somewhat geezed-out white male, I’ve been accused of all of the above.
Know something? They’re all correct. During the last 10 years, I’ve written a column every week. My editors, from Kathryn Eastburn to Cara DeGette to Mike Boyd have let ’em all through — except one.
And in some of those 500-plus columns, not to mention in hundreds of other pieces, there were facts that weren’t facts, opinions unsupported by anything but lazy prejudice, misstatements that I should have checked and conclusions that might better be characterized as delusions.
Last week, for example, I made an egregious error in a story about a local company, Taeus. Misunderstanding a statement from one of the company’s officers, I wrote that two major companies were manufacturing products that might infringe a patent that will be auctioned on April 18. In reality, those companies were simply cited as being among those that might have an interest in the patent.
In such a case, we need to apologize, and undo whatever damage the erroneous report may have caused.
It’s the kind of mistake that no reasonably conscientious reporter should make. But I made it — and I’ll probably make more such mistakes in the future.
And we haven’t even mentioned the grammatical errors or the spelling errors.
But that’s the nature of the biz — and most of us develop pretty thick skins, correcting real mistakes as best we can, but shrugging off attacks from partisans of all stripes.
In fact, we even take a certain sour delight in certain kinds of attacks — particularly those from politicians and public relations flacks.
Such attacks usually aren’t reality-based. They’re almost always about your failure to get with the program, your baseless affection for inconvenient facts or your refusal to toe the party line.
Take last week, when a city PR person, whom I won’t name, approached one of my colleagues at an event, railed about my coverage of water issues and asked whether he could only talk to her about such issues in the future. Apparently, he didn’t much like what I’d written — thought it was biased. And he was mad at our editor, too, because he wouldn’t remove me from the beat.
Note to PR people: If you want to make sure that a particular reporter remains on a beat forever, complain to his or her editor. He’ll probably clap your nemesis on the back and give him/her a raise.
But that’s a penny-ante attack, compared to one of our local state legislator’s e-mail screed, complaining about my former editor, Cara DeGette.
On March 16, Rep. Larry Liston, (R-Colorado Springs) wrote to a member of the public:
“Thank you for wanting to help keep the Colorado newspapers’ legislative press corps free from overly liberal reporting on the House and Senate Floors. As I mentioned to you, there may be an effort to have Ms. Cara DeGette (the editor of the very left-leaning blog Colorado Confidential) credentialed to be on the Floor of the Capitol … She is also the editor of Colorado Springs’ The Independent, a very liberal, local, supposed newspaper.”
Liston goes on to suggest to his correspondent contact the Colorado Press Association, and “let (them) know that you hope that (they) will not give her … full press credentials on the floor. Your efforts, coming from a citizen, will carry great weight and influence.”
Now that’s pretty nervy — a state lawmaker trying to enlist a citizen to get rid of an unfriendly reporter!
Note to Liston: As a lawmaker, familiarity with the law is a plus. CPA doesn’t accredit the media, the Speaker of the House does. Here’s the relevant statute. “The Speaker shall accredit the persons who shall act as representatives of the media. [HR 3(b)(7)] [2-2-404(d), CRS]
The following press credentials are accepted, although other members of the media may be accredited at the speaker’s discretion:
Further note to Liston: The press can find embarrassing e-mails as efficiently as a French pig can find truffles.
Meanwhile, the ballots for the city elections will be counted on Tuesday, and we’ll see who gets selected. Here are my predictions — and I’d like to hear yours. E-mail me before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Winners get a drink on me at The Famous on Friday afternoon at 5:30.
To win, you have only to call mayor, council and council pay correctly. One entry per person — and I’m really hoping that not too many of you are dead-on correct (because I’m quite certain that my current editor wouldn’t approve an outlandish expense report).
Mayor: Lionel Rivera
Council: Jan Martin, Tom Gallagher, Larry Small, Randy Purvis.
Council Pay: No
I’m only comfortable with the Rivera call.
For council, I’m going with Martin, because she’s the only woman in the race, and has defined support from moderates/liberals, which should get her a lot of ballots that other candidates won’t get.
Gallagher may be eccentric, but folks tend to support one maverick — as long as there’s only one. Small and Purvis benefit from long, uncontroversial incumbency, but Bernie Herpin, like Jan Martin, has a defined constituency — in his case, the gun rights community — which will bring him a lot of votes.
If Bernie makes it, who won’t? Purvis? Gallagher?
And council pay? Reasonable as it may be to increase their stipend from piddling to small, I know from bitter experience that voters hate to give politicians money.
That’s why I left the world’s most despised profession (politician) for the second place holder (journalism).
And finally, can you guess which column was so biased, so overblown, so transparently partisan that my editor killed it?
An embarrassingly partisan, even worshipful column about the leadership qualities of our president, written in the wake of 9/11.
Times change …
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.