Newspapers are not ‘the media’

A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Here at the Wheeling News-Register and The Intelligencer, we make our money by selling a single product to readers: trust.

That’s why I’d like to pop a few people at Rolling Stone magazine in the mouth. Were the opportunity to present itself, I suspect I’d have to get in line behind quite a few other people who work at newspapers.

Too many people think of journalists as a single entity, the “media.” But there are critical differences among traditional newspapers, niche publications, broadcasters and entertainment publications.

General interest newspapers like ours focus on giving readers news – that is, accurate accounts of what’s going on in the world around us. If you don’t trust us to do the best we can in telling you the truth about the news, you have no reason to buy and read us.

We draw a hard line between our news pages and those on which we as an institution and as individual writers provide our opinions.

It’s important for people to know what’s happening in their communities, states, nation and world. Knowing about a gas drilling boom can get you a better job. Learning from us that legislators are thinking about a tax increase can help you prevent it. I could give you an endless list of examples.

But what if you can’t believe what you read in the newspaper?

Rolling Stone has made some people wonder whether they can trust “the media.” You may know why: A few months ago, the magazine published a story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

But later it came out that the event probably never occurred. Rolling Stone’s writer never bothered to verify a young woman’s claim about the rape. The reporter’s editors went along with that.

It’s quite likely I’d be out of a job if that happened at this newspaper. I’d deserve to be fired. But Rolling Stone took no disciplinary action against anyone.

Good Lord.

Let’s get one thing straight: Newspapers and publications such as Rolling Stone have little in common. We attempt to practice something called “journalism.” Clearly, they do not.

We in newspapering work hard to earn and keep your trust. We can only hope – for your sake as well as ours – that you recognize there’s a difference between us and “the media.”

Myer can be reached at: [email protected].

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