I’ve been back at The Buffalo News for only two months, long enough to be called a moron, a coward and someone who doesn’t believe he has any flaws.
And those are just from my friends.
Kidding. Well, sort of. I used to play tennis with the guy who implied I was a coward.
I should direct the woman who wrote the last comment to my therapist, who would explain I invent some flaws that I don’t really have.
Those readers have prompted me to explain how I see my role. Think of today’s column as one of the lectures I give to some of my college journalism classes.
My job essentially is to keep accountable the people in the media who think their role is to keep people accountable. Strangely, the people who hire reporters to put microphones in front of newsmakers often avoid tough questions themselves.
I also try to explain journalism ethics to readers who don’t understand what has been accepted media practice for decades.
I’ll start with the reader who called me a moron for criticizing Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler’s (nicknamed MAD on the station’s website) “obvious and unnecessary” commentaries.
He started by asking “Are you serious?” before noting “the irony” of my writing a commentary deriding Demler’s commentary. His comments are edited.
“Regardless of the topic at hand, your article objecting to her commentary is moronic,” he wrote. “There is a big need for the commentary. My mother, who is in her 70s, doesn’t read the newspaper. It doesn’t mean she is not intellectual, it’s just that she can’t afford it. She does watch the news. She respects Mrs. Demler. She has no idea who Alan Pergament is.”
He clearly doesn’t understand journalism. I agree more commentary is a good idea. But you don’t want anchors and reporters giving their opinions about the news they cover. That’s why you don’t see other anchors doing them in Western New York or most places.
Once upon a time, Channel 7 legend Irv Weinstein did some commentaries. But he was IRV WEINSTEIN!!!!. And he said hard-hitting things occasionally.
There is no “irony” in me critiquing Demler. It is in the job description as a columnist to give my opinions. For more of my views about Demler’s self-important commentary, I direct everyone to my recent blog with the headline, “It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD World,” in which I responded to Demler’s on-air response to my earlier column.
If you missed her amazing, egotistical defense, you missed one of the unintentionally funniest moments of the year. She used a photo of Will Ferrell in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” as a prop and quoted Aristotle, who I believe was a TV anchor around 350 B.C.
Another reader was critical of a column in which I explained that Channel 2 had to let sports anchor Ed Kilgore go earlier than planned because he took a job to work for Buffalo Sabres Owner Terry Pegula and hosted a news conference for his downtown development project.
I called his hosting role a blatant and embarrassing conflict of interest because you can’t be an objective journalist when you work for the team owner in any capacity.
The reader wrote “you are worried about conflict of interest issues about TV personalities that really should not be an issue at all” because Kilgore wasn’t working for a government agency.
She noted that Kilgore had been at Channel 2 for 40 years and asked “how many TV personalities last that long here in the Buffalo area or for that matter anywhere in the TV world? Seriously, I believe you owe the man a public apology and maybe you should take a good look in the mirror and make sure you do not have any flaws.”
I didn’t care how many years Kilgore was at Channel 2 or how much the reader respects him. (Boy, people in TV get a lot of hero worship for no apparent reason.) It didn’t entitle him to break a cardinal role of journalism – you don’t work for someone you cover. You might have thought that Kilgore would have learned that in 40 years.
It wasn’t my decision to let Kilgore go early. Channel 2 management did because they knew it was the right thing to do, especially for a station that has a slogan that screams “it keeps people accountable.”
The guy I used to play tennis with wrote to say he was surprised that I didn’t write about a contentious Buffalo Sabres news conference in which team president Ted Black traded jabs with Buffalo News sportswriters Mike Harrington and Jerry Sullivan. The guy wondered if I was “afraid” to comment because the controversy involved the two News staffers. He added he didn’t see much of “a credibility difference between my role at The News and Kilgore’s at Channel 2.”
Actually, if I had written a commentary about the news conference, I would have been guilty of what I said Kilgore was doing. You can’t write about an organization in which you are a member, especially when you are paid by that organization.
I did critique The Buffalo News occasionally in the independent media blog I wrote while I was away from the newspaper. But I didn’t critique the newspaper in my first tour at The News and I won’t be critiquing it now.
I don’t critique the newspaper because I get paid by it. Kilgore couldn’t stay at Channel 2 because he wouldn’t have any credibility critiquing the team when he was being paid by the owner. If Kilgore praised Pegula, people would think it is because he is paid by him. In the same vein, if I wrote a commentary supportive of The News sportswriters after creating the Kilgore Rule, I wouldn’t have been able to disagree with anyone who called me a moron.
Journalism class dismissed.