Sunday, July 31, 2005

You can quote me on that

An editor and a couple of reporters from my hometown paper, The Reidsville Review, have lost their jobs for making up quotes for a front page feature called "Two Cents Worth," which is a printed man-on-the-street interview that includes a member of the local community's name, a small picture and their answer to the question of the day.

When I interned at the Review about a decade ago, this feature was called "Meet Your Neighbor" and included the requisite name, photo and some brief biographical information. It appears that in the 10-plus years since this feature debuted, everyone in Rockingham County has been spotlighted because the reporters in question fabricated a quote from an acquaintance named Emma Burgin, who later said she had never been to Reidsville or interviewed by anyone from the paper.

Turns out the reporters worked with Burgin at The Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper at the University of North Carolina (another one of my old stomping grounds), but they didn't know Burgin as well as they thought. The question purportedly asked of Burgin was "Who is your favorite band?" Her fabricated answer was the Dave Matthews Band, but Burgin says had she really been asked who her favorite band was, her answer wouldn't have been Dave Matthews. "I'm more of a solo artist-type girl," she told the Greensboro News & Record.

Granted, I'm making light of a serious issue in journalistic circles -- fabricating or making up quotes is the biggest no-no in the book of news writing no-nos, and undermines whatever credibility the media has left. But before I go, let me offer some tips to future Reidsville Review staffers on where to find subjects for "Two Cents Worth" so they won't be caught in such a bind that they have to lift a picture from the internet and create an imaginary quote like their predecessors.

I always found the Pennrose Mall to be fertile ground for finding "Two Cents Worth/Meet Your Neighbor" subjects, especially on hot, summer afternoons. On most any afternoon, you could be sure to find a group of grumpy old men who had brought their own lawn chairs from home seated in a circle outside of what is now the Hibbett Sports store in the mall, discussing the affairs of the day. Members of this group (affectionately referred to as "codger row") were usually more than willing to be interviewed and have their picture taken.

Let's try this again...

A little more than a month ago, I announced I was "returning to the blogosphere," (I'm not providing a link because that entry is right below this one if you want to read it). Anyway, I can't believe it's been more than a month since I've updated my blog. This time, I promise I'll try to be more consistent. It's also hard to believe that I've been in my new apartment for a month, but it's not hard to believe that I'm not all settled in and organized yet. It's also hard to believe that in three weeks, I'll begin another semester of seminary....Where did the summer go?