One of my main beefs with online newsrooms is that because they use stories written by others – other News/Fairfax mastheads, wire services, re-writes of stories on other websites – online journalists seem to forget they are writing about real people.
A few years ago while drinking after work with some colleagues, we were arguing about this very point. I said that yes, of course we have a responsibility to write accurately about people, and the news ed said bullshit. She said “maybe in la-la-fantasy-Kim-land, but not in the real world”. She’s still a news editor, by the way.
(Another problem with the way online newsrooms get their stories is that it makes them silent newsrooms where journalists are not putting in any calls to get more information for stories and, rather than being exciting, they are boring places to work. And I should know, because I used to be an online journalist.)
Anyway, when a story was written by a different journalist in a different newsroom in a different state or country, you don’t have any connection to the people involved, so why would you care if your oh-so-witty headline was actually quite offensive?
Like this story on theage.com.au (and I’m sure I saw it on smh.com.au yesterday or earlier today):
Nothing says “let’s make a reference to an 80s comedy movie” than news that someone has died.
The story – ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ driver thought dead friend was just drunk – is a crime story from Denver, Colorado. It’s from wire service AP and wouldn’t have been picked up by the Australian news media if it wasn’t for the Weekend at Bernie’s reference. It’s on our radar simply because an online editor thought it was funny.
But, I should be fair. It’s not just the online editor of theage.com.au who thought it was ha-larious. A journalist who spoke to the accused thought the story of two guys who may or may not have known that their friend was dead and used his money to buy themselves drinks, was sooo freakin’ hilarious that they even put the Weekend at Bernie’s suggestion to them:
Young rejected comparisons to the Weekend at Bernie’s plot.
He said the ordeal only lasted four hours, and insisted there was no comparison to the movie.
“It’s not a joking matter. He deserves better than that,” Young said.
More Weekend at Bernie’s oh-ho-ho-isn’t-this-funny rubbish was reported last year by News.com.au and run on all News Ltd websites. Classy, isn’t it?