One of the toughest lessons I have to teach my reporters is that you can’t be all things to all people – and you can’t be everyone’s friend.
I think we all have an innate desire to be universally liked and respected, but reality is usually quite different. That’s a tough life lesson in general, but in the journalism business, it goes with the trade. I grew enormous shoulders many years ago, and am fully aware that I am both loved and hated in this community, sometimes by the same people.
What I try to instill in the minds of the reporters is that while it’s necessary to develop healthy relationships with the sources you depend on for information, you shouldn’t make the mistake of trying to be their friend. Ultimately, we publish the newspaper for the reading public – not for the ‘powers that be’ who certainly would rather us slant the news their way, or not print it at all.
That’s why I was proud that Jessica Lewis put the mayor on the hotseat in her column Wednesday. When she discovered that Mr. Maiurano’s 2009 “State of the City” address was a nearly a word-for-word regurgitation of his 2007 address, I told her, “You can’t let him get away with that.” And she didn’t.
Joe’s a nice guy. Busy, too, I’m sure. And while I’m still not clear on whether you can plagiarize yourself, I do know that putting out a piece like that for public consumption is lazy, at best. As Jessica pointed out, the repeat didn’t do the city justice – there’s more going on than what is indicated by a rote retelling of something written two years ago. It was dumb, and she called him on it. Sometimes, that’s just what we gotta do.
Of course, the mayor’s not too happy about being called out on that one. But, as I told Jessica, sometimes our job doesn’t make us very popular – and with good reason. All of my reporters are pretty good at making both friends and enemies, and that’s exactly how it should be. And here’s where I trot out a journalistic gem I heard long ago: “A journalist whose writing does not stir up either a duel or a lawsuit is a bad journalist.” – Hippolyte de Villemessant.