We Didn’t Start the Fire: a discussion on political reporting

Note: I changed the headline because when I have the opportunity to make an 80s pop music reference, I take it.

Common blog commenter “David” responded to a recent post about Duarte possibly trying to turn a fire at a Vulcan Materials facility into a political affair.

As a response to that post, David said “Pot meet Kettle” implying that, for my part, I was guilty of the very thing I was writing about. In response, I left the following comment that I thought would make for some good discussion:

I expected this response and I can’t say it isn’t wholly unwarranted. I conferred with several colleagues and outside friends wondering if I was being critical. The resounding answer was no.

But that is outside of the point I want to make in response. I think that argument – media fans the political fire just as much as politicians – is circular reasoning.

If we lived in fear of that criticism and chose to ignore stories to avoid adding to the fervor, how would we ever write about politics? Any story that is in any way critical or shows a politician in a negative light could be criticized (and often is) as a media creation meant to urge feuds and feed turmoil.

Just because we write about politics doesn’t make us political. When we write about political turmoil, that doesn’t make us tumultuous. If I report on a political argument, I am not being argumentative. So, if I write about one entity turning an apolitical incident into a political one, I don’t believe I am guilty by association.

Think of the slippery slope of your comment outside the context of the media. If you go and talk to your friends about this story, are you inciting or sensationalizing the episode? Or merely making an objective statement about something you witnessed?

Obviously, it can’t be ignored that writing about something naturally raises a situation to a different level of awareness. What I try to decide is if something is worthy (information that is pertinent/necessary/interesting to the people) of giving it the added attention. I felt this situation warranted the post and I believe I was fair in reporting it.

I will also admit that there are reporters and media outlets who do use their abilities for evil and pour gas on the fire or push something to be more than it is. It is a fine line that we walk. Every time I report on something, I weigh its newsworthiness, run a check list of pros and cons, consider the consequences, who this would be important to and why. For a blog post, this passed the test.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

  • David

    “No we didn’t light it
    But we tried to fight it”

    Don’t take my comment to mean that I thought you should not comment on this in your blog. You should. It is your job.

    I did mean to point out that you write your articles also to “provide a spark”.

    Your job is to bring information to people that sparks interest in your readers.

    The Duarte website published an article about a nearby fire and the AQMD monitors which were insufficient to measure the effects of burning rubber on nearby communities. To my surprise the article actually did NOT mention Measure A or the Vulcan expansion.
    As you pointed out this is of interest to Duarte residents.

    Why did Duarte report on this? Because it sparks interest from the readers of the Duarte website – the citizens of Duarte.

    Why did you report on Duarte’s article? Because it sparks interest from the readers of your blog.

    BTW, the same insufficient monitors are the ONLY types that are allowed to be purchased by Measure A.

  • BruceKnoles

    About Measure A, “I Cant Go For That (No Can Do)”. No “Sweet Child O Mine” should have to breathe silica dust. Those pristine 80 acres on the west side are “Like A Virgin” we should preserve. On January 25th all of Azusa “Walk This Way” to the polls, vote NO on Measure A. When it comes to AAME, just “Dont Stop Believin” their truths because “With Or Without You”, we’re going to defeat Measure A. If you ask “How Will I Know”, then “Jump” to our website and forget corporate sales pitches. “Here I Go Again” “Time After Time” telling you all we can “Beat It”. We’re not “Too Shy” to take advantage of them “Burning Down The House”. If you think “Love Is A Battlefield”, watch us “Under Pressure” as we fight the big money. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and greed is “Tainted Love”. We collected over 2500 signatures during the “Nasty” “Cruel Summer” and “Were Not Gonna Take It”. We’ve been “Round And Round” with Vulcan an we’re going to “Push It”, “Whip It” and “Bust A Move”. So, “Straight Up” we “Just Cant Get Enough” and are going to “Fight The Power”.

  • David

    Kudo’s to Bruce for that one.

  • http://www.sgvtribune.com Daniel Tedford

    You get props for that one.