Why I failed Today

The story was clear. I finished by deadline. I recorded a minuscule piece of history this morning about Social Security legislation. The Congressmen and their communications people were extremely helpful to me, especially considering that I’m a “cub” reporter doing a piece for school. They didn’t have to be nice, but they made every effort to give me the information I needed.

And yet, I failed in many ways today. I walked away from the press conference disappointed, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to walk to class in order to make deadline.

Below, I posted the story I wrote for today. The facts are there, the interviews are there, the key points are there. But what still bothers me even tonight is what’s not there.

This happened last week to me too. I wrote an article about Iran/US negotiation tactics. It was pretty insightful, but again, something major was missing.

The QUESTIONING of journalism can get lost when reporters are more worried about getting their stuff done on time. They know in their heads that they need quotes and facts. They need emotion, logic, and statistics. But what sets journalists aside from PR people is our role as the questioner. The challenger to the perfectly placed information they hand you in a cute little folder. I took the folder. I took the smiles and the contrived quotes at face value. After all, who can question senior citizens?

What I should have done:

I should have woken up to look at the logical counterarguement to each story. With the Iran story, nobody in the forum mentioned anything about the role of Israel in the U.S.’s attempts to negotiate. Why should Iran negotiate on their nukes when Israel is stocked with nukes? Do they have the right to defend themselves too? Although a loaded question, nobody even acknowledged the Israel question in forging a relationship with Iran. Everyone knows that the Iranian government doesn’t support Israel, and everyone knows that the U.S. gives them millions and millions a year to fund all kinds of military projects. How did this not come up in discussing foreign relations between Iran and the U.S.?

And why didn’t I stand in line with all of the other esteemed reporters there? Because I was afraid it was a dumb question. It might be a dumb question, but I still don’t know the answer, and therefore, no one reading my article will.

As for today, the Senators proposed giving $250 to Social Security recipients to make up for the lack of  COLA this year. The first thought that came to my head was, “oh that seems like a good tradeoff. Retired people need to survive in bad economic times somehow.” However, the second thing that ran through my head was–how the heck are we going to pay for this?

They proposed that a marginal income bracket will take the heat for this one: 250-300,0o0 per year. Okay, that makes sense, right? But what about those who make millions of dollars a year (cough…like those proposing the bill…).

The question swam through my head the entire speech, yet I failed to ask it during the Q & A portion. Why? I was afraid once again it was a stupid question. And once again, nobody will know the answer.

In our attempts to be nice, keep good contacts, and get the story done on time, we let these “what if” questions swim through our heads unanswered. We’re students, so we have a lot more to lose, after all.

I compromised my dedication to ANALYSIS along with reporting. I recorded a bit of history, but I didn’t do my job by questioning the lines I was fed. This is wrong, it’s lazy, and all of us do it every day.


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