Thursday, November 7, 2013

Flint Journal editor responds to the missed election coverage

The Flint Journal editor stepped up and took the blame for the lack of competent election coverage. It was the right thing to do, but the comments are pretty brutal nonetheless.

Update: Poynter has an article about this as well.

Update: Jim Romenesko has chimed in as well.


Anonymous said...

"We reported it the same day we discovered it. However, we did not inform voters – the way we all wish we could have – of that information before they went to the polls on Tuesday."

Because you discovered it too late. Because you didn't do basic research. Because you expect inexperienced (anything less than 5 years on the job is inexperience when it comes to journalism) reporters to work 24/7 and get stories digitally up and online without real time for background work.

"We’ve been talking a lot internally about how and why we didn’t find out sooner. Here’s what we know: We don’t ever want it to happen again and are developing a process to ensure it never does."

OMG, you NEVER imagined before that this would happen? Maybe that's because you were so busy running stories about the best hot dogs in Michigan or prom pictures or any of the other "easy" space filling stories that you produce weekly that you forgot what it was like with time to build a story of importance.

The editor offers her apology, and anybody who knows her knows she has a good heart and was hardly ever considered the kind of bulldog who would insist on simple, basic background references.

"We can’t change what is. What we can do is acknowledge we should have done better and pledge to you that we will do better."

You've been pledging to the community just how great this new form of communication would be since the guts of the operation were downsized out of the places in 2008. Why...why...why...would we believe you intend to change anything? And do you really think this lame apology builds any confidence in this community that this newspaper is anything more than raggedy stories between ads.

I wish I could cancel my paper again.

Anonymous said...

Anon 13:11 --

The Journal got downsized because the whole community got downsized by GM and the business model for newspapers in general has/continues to collapse. There was no way the paper could have continued as a viable business without these changes.

The current reporters and editors work their butts off, taking advantage of the new digital tools available to them.

And despite this unfortunate mistake, they are doing some great work with depth -- more than stories about hot dogs and proms.

You can find some here:

The editor shows her commitment to great journalism and to the community by tackling the issue directly, even responding to her harshest critics in the comments.

Yes, this was a failure, but they're owning up to it and making changes, matching the best of the traditions established by those who came before them.

Anonymous said...

I give the editor some points for apologizing. Of course, that is what she or someone in management needed to do. While anyone can make a mistake, this is a whopper exposing MLive's misguided and mismanaged attempt to be all things to all people -- to continue the facade of being a mainstream paper of old. Perhaps this incident will force the FJ and MLive to re-examine their news coverage objectives. Instead of pizza contests and insignificant, bias-revealing Democratic club coffee klatches, where the sheriff and county clerk are lovingly and kid-gloves covered ad nauseum even though they're readily available to more experienced beat reporters during business hours, maybe reporters should be focused on more important, relevant stories. Stories like major Flint elections. Ha! With a smaller staff, the FJ no longer can cover its market the same way. Period. That said, I think the FJ owes readers more answers about this major lapse in coverage. For instance, someone said the newly elected councilman and convicted murderer talked openly about his criminal background during at least one event, at a library, I think, Was an FJ reporter there? If so, what happened? Obviously, if a reporter was there but missed this huge revelation, he or she must be terminated immediately! I am just shocked that many folks in the community knew about this guy's conviction, yet the FJ was literally among the last to know. It's an epic failure that likely will be covered by journalism organizations, etc. Hey, Mr. Publisher, how're the FJ and MLive working for you now?

Anonymous said...

Anon 13:11
The Journal did NOT get downsized because the whole community got downsized by GM -- the downsizing came after business/management decisions reacted poorly to the expanding internet. And they weren't alone, the news business in general started giving away for free the info that families and businesses buying the paper had been paying for FOR 100+ YEARS!

And yes there are more stories than proms and hot dogs -- heaven forbid we forget this ridiculous BLUEBERRY stuff -- as for your loving link to the MPA prizes, it is important to remember the shrinking competition. Its also important to recognize that the majority of the papers competing against each other are all MLive.

Your comment that the editor shows her commitment by tackling the issue directly is lovely in its support of this person, but you miss the point. This was about a very BASIC BASIC BASIC piece of journalism, do a background search on your subject ESPECIALLY those running for office.
Something that should not have been skipped.

Saying it was a failure that they're owning up to and making changes in regard to is also nice for the future.
But for those of us who remember what it was like to have investigative reporters and a newspaper staff full of determined reporters who didn't just write stories as fast as possible (quality not quantity which is not your fault by the way it's the way of the world) it is unimaginable that anything like this would happen and require an apology.

How sad that you have to defend it, you should be appalled.

Anonymous said...

I would characterize the apology as half-hearted and poorly written. I can save the editor some hand-wringing, re: how this never happens again: If you're going to run a news operation staffed by kids who are partly paid on clicks, then show them how to use the internet for something other than tweeting about hot dogs and watching cat videos. A simple internet search involving the city council candidate/murderer would have saved Flint a lot of national embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

MLive has become the Les Nessman of news. That's what happens when you take away great reporters and replace them with bloggers. They even missed the story all these facts were brought out on local radio news interviews.
As Les so famously quoted, "Oh my God!! They're turkeys!!"

Anonymous said...


David Forsmark said...

Okay, and the main admission in the mea culpa that must have been run through the editorial gauntlet is "We didn't do good enough." WTH????

Anonymous said...

Just looping back to this issue about the FJ's botched campaign coverage. If I recall correctly, management vowed to investigate what happened - or didn't happen. If true, it has the responsibility to publish a story of its results, especially if it indeed mentioned an investigation. If I am wrong and no investigation was undertaken, then the issue is why? Surely, such a ginormous lapse in coverage cries out for an investigation. Newspapers always demand transparency, except when peering into the mirror of truth. C'mon, FJ, tell us what you found and what action you took to ensure this kind of thing won't happen again. Hello? FJ management? Anyone home? Anyone still living in Genesee County? Helloooooo?