Prendergast On the Media

In preparation for a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership event June 4, I askedseveral regional journalists about their successes and their views on whether the media report or make the news. Westword’s Alan Prendergastadds his comments below.

Hi Ari,

Sorry I didn’t reply to this sooner, but last week was pretty crazy. Too late for your presentation, but maybe not for your blog, I would simply add to the pile with this:

1. Success can be measured all sorts of ways, but I’m particularly proud of our Columbine coverage from 1999-2005 or so, because it was an ongoing effort to provide answers to families that were being lied to or simply ignored by public officials and their lawyers. By the same token, I consider much of our prison coverage a success because it shines a light where few journalists choose to go, and at least lets people running the system know that somebody could be watching. Links would be the Crime and Punishment and Columbine Reader archives on our site.

2. I don’t think there’s much “making” of the news, in a strictly manufacturing sense. But it’s also naive to suggest that reporters are mere conduits of information who don’t consciously shape (and possibly redact) the information they present. I like to think of journalism as a demonstration of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, or at least that part of it which suggests it’s impossible to observe an event without altering it in some fashion, the way shining a light on electrons changes their behavior.

Alan Prendergast