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It’s always exciting to be in on a conversation about ideals, especially when it isn’t purely hot air. In this case, on my first day at a shiny new job (very shiny), the news department met to discuss blogging. The tension in a quasi-traditional editorial department like this one is understandable: can “unauthorized,” frequently incredible blogs really be taken as seriously as reported news in traditional outlets? Do journalists run any risks by adding their professional names to the lists of bloggers, and to what extent is the current blog-exuberance only contributing to the already widely-noted echo chamber? (I already overheard a conversation on my first day between two new colleagues — a family member of one salesperson is a knowledgeable individual who — gasp — doesn’t read blogs!)


As the news department reporters discussed blogging, and their discomfort with what we all feared could be the outcome of a reporter being held accountable for perceived snarkiness in an off-the-cuff blog, I had to chime in, even if it was only my first day (did I mention that yet?).


In 1999 or 2000, I signed up to receive a daily e-mail from Peter Jennings. I was a Jennings fan almost entirely because of Jack Hitt’s keen observation of the newsman’s disconcerting bias. The e-mail was a clever marketing tool, an early and grasping attempt by ABC News to humanize their second-place anchor and shore-up some loyalty among their base. It was written by Peter on days when he had time, and on days when he was rushed, it was written by other editors.


It made me a true fan, gave me a sense of what it might be like to prepare a television newscast every afternoon, and gave me a real appreciation for the kind of professionalism and dignity that can eventually accrue with as much time, experience and charisma as Jennings seemed to have had.


It was a blog, sort of. But since it didn’t undermine Jennings’s credibility, it just added some access for the sort of half-assed news junkies who don’t want to search out everything for themselves (but still want to see what it’s like from the other side of the desk).


What I didn’t realize, as I extolled the virtues of Peter’s daily missives, was that we’ve just passed the one year anniversary of Jennings’s death. After the meeting, as I searched online for any stray copies of his daily e-mail, I encountered the strange online phenomenon whereby any search for a person who happens to be dead yields only results about their death — as if all the person had ever done in their life was die.


Then I found Tom Nagorski’s recent appreciation, published this week at Columbia Journalism Review (and also found at MediaBistro). It’s nice to hear from Nagorski again — he was often the guy to write the e-mails on days when Jennings was too busy. (It’s also nice to see that Jennings was ahead of the curve on some issues that are still rankling, like the number of troops we might have wanted in Iraq in order to “win the peace.”)

Anyway, the reporters here are already starting to give our listeners/readers a peak behind the curtain. Last night’s post by reporter Catherine Girardeau gives us a look at some of the sources she didn’t include in her piece, but they’re great sources and they have the nice side-effect of showing off her timeliness and this news site’s quality :).

Not a bad start.


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