Murder She Writes is pleased to have Patricia Sargeant guest blog today! (applause, applause.) Patricia writes romantic suspense for Kensington. Romantic Times said of her September release ON FIRE “Sargeant does an admirable job of dotting her romantic whodunit with unexpected events that jolt the reader and force her to pay close attention to the story. Her prose draws readers into the action, and her well-crafted characters become increasingly real as the story goes on.” Yeah! You can visit her regularly at the Pink Ladies Blog, another group author community of wonderful writers.
Without further ado, Patricia!!!
The heroine of my current romantic suspense, ON FIRE, is a newspaper reporter. One of the background issues she and her fellow reporters discuss is the responsibility of the press. The responsibility to present the facts – and only the facts – so readers could form their own opinions. (Their discussion does have a purpose within the plot. It’s not just me posing on a soapbox.)
When I studied news editorial journalism at The Ohio State University countless moons ago, my professors stressed that responsibility. We had to explain why an issue is important to the community before we covered the story. We were required to interview at least three named sources. And we were not supposed to write commentary.
Today, I scratch my head at what sometimes passes for the news. I stare bemusedly at anonymous sources attributed to innocuous statements. And I wince when reporters add what so obviously are their own opinions to otherwise straight news stories.
Now, I realize people have different interests. That’s what makes the world go ’round. But when I witness a barrage of All-Paris-Hilton-All-The-Time coverage while I find out on a reader blog that yet another college student has disappeared during spring break, I can’t help but wonder about the state of the news industry.
I also realize sometimes it’s necessary to grant sources anonymity. If we didn’t occasionally acquiesce to anonymity, we wouldn’t have uncovered Watergate. However, the overuse of anonymous sources calls not only their value but also their contributions into question. For example, the New York Daily News covered the allegations of cheating by the New England Patriots football team. The Daily News quoted an anonymous source who stated the New York Jets’s head coach told the Jets organization about the Patriots’s methods of cheating. Let’s take a moment to think about this. Do we really need to grant this source anonymity? It’s football; not national security.
A free and responsible press is the cornerstone of a strong democracy. We need accurate and complete information to make informed decisions. I’ve often contacted journalists when I thought their coverage was biased or incomplete. Sometimes it makes a difference; sometimes it doesn’t. But I believe we owe it to ourselves and our communities to hold the media responsible.
I’m Patricia Sargeant. Good night and good luck.