Between the tower and the trenches

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Heartbeats indicate if people are alive.

Stories don’t have heartbeats.

Because there’s no objective measurement of a story’s lifespan, media outlets can easily lose touch with the public’s interest.

Public interest is what drives most reporters’ work. Fair and accurate reporting cannot be done solely from an ivory tower; comprehensive and relevant stories cannot always be told from the trenches.

Modern news outlets require some sort of balance between the metaphorical ivory tower and the metaphorical trenches. 

The ideal standard journalism is to be a representative of the public. The old guard referred to it as watchdog journalism, but that term can make people nervous.

Usually news organizations don’t know if they’re fallen off the tightrope until the public makes it obviously clear.

Natural curiosity usually serves as north on a reporter’s compass.

The Toronto Star has received both compliments and criticisms in response to its exhaustive reporting on Mayor Rob Ford. Led by Robyn Doolittle, Kevin Donovan and Daniel Dale, the Star’s reporting was thorough and explosive. But it’s been many months since the first stories about Ford being caught on camera smoking crack cocaine. There have been many details, confessions and partial apologies since, but nothing has changed.

Reporters within the Star’s newsroom, and reporters across the country, proclaimed the investigations into Ford reaffirmed the need for investigative journalism. But again, nothing has really changed.

Ford, against all odds, is still the mayor — if only just by title.

Many have accused the Star of having a partisan agenda for targeting Ford, but the story is still a matter of public interest.

On Tuesday, a new video made its way around the Internet of Ford allegedly drunk in a restaurant speaking with a really bad Jamaican patois.

It’s the closest real news reporting in Canada has gotten to tabloid journalism in recent memory. Ford’s real test will be if people still care about his antics when he’s no longer in office.

Thankfully Moose Jaw doesn’t have anything like that to distract Times-Herald reporters from finding and telling the stories that matter to this community.

A recent series on the Moose Jaw Transition House, Moose Jaw and District Victim Services and the former Angus Campbell Centre were motivated by a desire to profile organizations that don’t get a lot of attention.

In July, I wrote a story called “Waiting for the lottery” about local panhandler Darin Kobelsky’s struggle with schizophrenia. I stumbled onto his story through natural curiosity and the insight of sports reporter Katie Brickman.

There are more people in Moose Jaw like Kobelsky than most of us would guess, but they’re still a minority. That doesn’t make those stories less important.

We can’t tell all of those stories, so I told Kobelsky’s.

His story is very much still alive, and the Times-Herald believes it’s still relevant to this community.

My job is not to represent the majority. My only agenda is to provide balance and write accurate stories.

Organizations: Toronto Star, Times-Herald, Moose Jaw Transition House Moose Jaw and District Victim Services Angus Campbell Centre

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Canada

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