Friday, April 24, 2009

Like Ants Scurrying Under the Magnifying Glass

Byline Beast of N.Y.: Times’ Sewell Chan Racks Up 422 in Year

On average, if you pick up a copy of The New York Times, Mr. Chan’s name will appear in it 1.15 times. Since he debuted in The Times in November 2004—with a contributor’s credit on a story about the lowering of terror-threat levels—Mr. Chan, now 28 years old, has recorded more than 600 credits. He has covered Hurricane Katrina, the transit strike, the Lake George boating disaster and the fine print of the municipal budget. “He’s a terrific reporter,” said former metro editor Susan Edgerley, who hired Mr. Chan away from The Washington Post. “He’s hugely energetic. He’s curious, smart. He loves coming to work every day. He’s a joy to have in the newsroom.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More on Reporting v. Blogging

I just read an S.F. Chronicle article from about a week ago that relates to my post on Herb Caen from yesterday. According to reporter Joe Garofoli, savvy Bay Area politicians are courting local and statewide bloggers to further their political ambitions.

A couple money quotes:

It's a relationship bloggers and politicos think can be mutually beneficial - particularly for the candidate, as the relationship is largely free of the adversarial pushback pols receive from traditional media.


While there are bloggers who break news, most do not consider themselves journalists in the traditional sense, but rather opinion-makers who sometimes report. Many are partisans, political geeks who, if they're not tapped into the local political party apparatus, are hardwired into online networks of like-minded people.


Many bloggers see themselves as serving an adjunct function to journalists. Sure, Brian Leubitz regularly breaks news on the Calitics blog he founded ( "But then a (traditional media) reporter will pick it up and do the reporting that I don't necessarily want to do," Leubitz says.

I seem to recall Garofoli as a writer for SF Weekly, though I may be wrong. He appears to have imbued this article with his own grizzled pride at being a "traditional" journalist. I have to say I'm with him on that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Herb Caen as Prototype Blogger

Herb Caen once told his "legman," the guy who does all of a great columnist's grunt work, that he was ruining Caen's items by doing too much reporting.

That's the irony that stood out to me in this Sunday S.F. Chronicle piece by Jesse Hamlin, who wrote about being Caen's legman from 1979 into the 1980s.

When I started with him in '79, I was too thorough of a reporter, in a way; Herb said I was asking too many questions and killing items. He wanted just enough confirmation to verify the basic story.

Far be it from me to critique Caen, a master of his craft. Caen probably worked harder on each of his columns than I have thus far in my journalism career.

But his philosophy, the need to get just enough for a juicy item, smells to me like what most mainstream bloggers do on the Web today.

What I see in too many bloggers today is a readiness to mouth off on rumors and news events without doing any independent reporting. If traditional journalism gradually crumbles to a hard, indestructible core, the act of making enough calls to dependable sources to flesh out the truth will be what remains. That's the difference between most of us and them.

Caen had his sources, but he didn't need to get to the bottom of the story. That wasn't his gig - didn't need to be. In those days, the Chronicle probably had enough of a staff to get the real news out.