This is a few weeks old now, but the Jameis Winston suspension story had an journalism element that interested me.
The day that the story started to trickle out of Tallahassee from Florida State students on Twitter, Pat Forde of Yahoo — one of my favorite columnists and reporters — sent out a series of tweets to students.
@KiefOsceola I'm a reporter with Yahoo Sports. Are you available to discuss what you saw/heard from Jameis Winston today?— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 16, 2014
@jackiecolvett I'm a reporter with Yahoo Sports. Are you available to talk about what you saw Jameis Winston saying/doing today?— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 16, 2014
(An interesting aside: According to Gregg Doyel, six of the seven FSU students who tweeted out what Winston said either set their accounts to private or deleted their accounts).
In his column about Winston, Forde wrote:
Now, the overly defensive tone of Forde’s writing aside, there’s a really interesting issue here. In a lot of ways, this is what journalism-as-process looks like. It’s doing your work in public. Instead of doing your work and then ending up with a story or a column, the public nature of the reporting process is as important as the final story. Transparency is a core virtue. So Forde’s use of Twitter and the transparency in his reporting is admirable.
But there’s another thought I can’t shake, and it’s this: Not every story you start pursuing as a reporter ends up in the paper or online. There are false starts. Leads that don’t go anywhere. Tips that turn out to be too good to be true. You shrug your shoulders, complain about wasting time, and then go on with life. But if your reporting is done in public, like Forde’s here, do you have that option? If you’ve been publicly trying to report a story, would it be possible to walk away, to shrug your shoulders and go on with your life? What kind of impact would that have on your credibility, if you’ve been trying to report on a story all day but don’t actually publish anything? In other words, did Forde back himself into a corner where he would felt forced to write about Winston even if the story turned out be either false or nothing major?
In this case, probably not? But as journalism-as-process becomes more of the norm, it’s an issue that journalists will undoubtedly face.