3 more wishes for the news media in 2016

Of gifts, drones and challenging caricatures of journalism.
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Clearly, Darren Rovell didn’t take my “3 wishes for the news media in 2015” to heart, because he was on my naughty list by May.

A year ago, I called upon reporters and editors everywhere to rededicate themselves to the highest ethical standards. And one way you do that is by not accepting gifts from sources.

Yet there was Rovell, a sports business reporter for ESPN and business correspondent for ABC News, tweeting this:

Now, maybe Rovell quietly wrote a check to racing’s David Ragan or KFC to cover the fair-market price of the racing suit. Or maybe he just thought he deserved it for a job well done.

I don’t know, and I have no idea whether or what he has reported on Ragan or KFC. But the appearance is one of his accepting a valuable gift (how much would diehard racing fans have paid for that suit?), and it raises a yellow caution flag on his entire body of work.

Being a good reporter is really hard work. There’s no need to make it more difficult by going out of your way to raise doubts about your integrity.

That reporters will take this under advisement tops three new wishes for the news media in 2016. Here are the others:

Drone on

Helicopters traditionally have been beyond the need or budgets of most news organizations outside of major metro areas. What’s more, they are dangerous, including a 1972 post-Hurricane Agnes crash at Capital City Airport in Harrisburg that claimed the lives of three journalists and the pilot.

Drones could become a more cost-effective, convenient and safer alternative to manned choppers. Fifteen major media companies, in conjunction with Virginia Tech University, are in the process of testing news-gathering drones.

I hope this catches on. The potential is powerful. For instance, we’ve all seen the famous Hollywood sign, but this drone video offers an entirely new take:

Challenge negative portrayals

I watched a lot of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies this holiday season. I mean, a lot. Besides the fact that they often are set in New York City when they really are filmed in Canada, a number of them involve negative portrayals of journalists.

Consider the movie “Christmas Incorporated,” in which the possible closing of a toy factory in New Hampshire threatens the town’s future. The factory’s fate lies with William Young, who recently inherited the business.

The jaded young reporter for the fictitious Dover Citizen newspaper says to Young’s personal assistant:

“Your boss is the biggest thing that’s ever happened here, and he’s my ticket to the big time. My first article on him blew up. And because of it I have several other job prospects that are going to get me out of here for good. So if you don’t mind, have a nice day.”

Yes, it’s a Hallmark Channel movie, and the factory and town are saved in the end.

But journalism should challenge such portrayals of reporters for the caricatures they are. The profession could learn a thing or two from the Society of American Florists, which regularly takes on negative publicity. This past Valentine’s Day, it challenged the likes of Dairy Queen, J. Crew and Vermont Teddy Bear not to disparage flowers but instead to promote their products on their own merits.

Surely the Hallmark Channel can celebrate Christmas without slighting journalism.

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