Mirror, Mirror—If you Google Newsed the names "Lance Williams" and "Mark Fainaru-Wada" last week, you would have seen a whole lot of headlines laced with words like "freedom" and "integrity." Mostly, these headlines graced the top of commentaries, spawning by the hour.
Williams and Fainaru-Wada are sports journalists at the San Francisco Chronicle who dug up information on steroid use in the big leagues and who might go to jail for not revealing their source. On Thursday, Sept. 21, a judge sentenced them to 18 months, though the scribes are appealing the decision.
Fellow journalists are pissed. And since we're the motormouths, the ones with the bullhorns and soapboxes, you're going to hear all about it. The same thing happens any time a reporter is taken hostage in Iraq. Big, bold fonts decorate front pages—never mind the other hostages or the thousands dead.
It sucks that those guys could go to jail for being good at their jobs, for keeping their promise to an anonymous source. Still, we shouldn’t open the writer dams and let loose waterfalls of ink in our papers, convincing our readers they should care about this stuff. The articles on the topic were enough. The interviews, the coverage, that should really do the trick. It's the soggy commentary that's got to go.
It's self-love, a classic vanity. Members of the media have the power to broadcast our concerns about our jobs, to wax poetic about our duty to our sources and sound a fairly clamorous rallying call demanding the government protect us as we carry out our sacred task. But journalists might consider refraining from abusing that perk in the interest of pumping up the old ego.
Drunken Foolery—I know you're probably sick of hearing about the whole “Clinton eats FOX interviewer” thing by now. But for me, the matter really points to yet another example of stodgy, creaky media missing entirely the point of the web.
So Clinton puts the smack down on FOX, and the clip hatched on YouTube like the Godzilla of all chicks, huge and cranky. All eyes, naturally, turned to the anomaly—a politician spilling it straight. So what did the smart marketers at FOX do? Did they A) Dance around the office celebrating a generation of viewers, previously out of reach, but now glued to the clip? B) Break open a bottle of champagne to rejoice that their logo was in the lower left-hand corner of thousands of clips available online? C) Make out with their co-workers after all that booze and carousing? D) Wake up hungover on Monday morning and demand of YouTube that the clip be erased (along with, hopefully, the previous night's lurid memories)?
If you guessed "D," you were right. Kind of. I have no idea why the folks at FOX didn't immediately realize how good all the YouTube publicity is for them. Luckily, someone down there realized the mistake and restored all the clips by Tuesday, Sept. 26. But come on everyone. Let's wake up and smell the power of the net.