Reporter or Columnist?

by Roger Pynn

What happens when reporters comment in a blog on stories they have written?

Have they stepped across the line and become columnists?

Can they go back?

When Orlando Sentinel Reporter Jim Stratton posted this did he cross the line and become a member of the paper’s opinion staff?

Stratton and colleague David Damron wrote a significant story about the work of– a group of regional leaders dedicated to smart growth – then in his blog he makes very clear what his opinions are. Does that signal what motivated him as he wrote the story? Can people of differing opinions understandably now take issue?

As a matter of full disclosure, I am a member of that organization’s board of directors. I won’t take issue here with what Stratton and Damron wrote. But I will question the newspaper’s judgment in letting reporters blog. I think it is bad practice.

As a former reporter (in fact for the Orlando Sentinel) I was taught and told “never express your opinion.” Why has that changed?

2 Responses to Reporter or Columnist?

  1. Lisa Lochridge says:

    The rules (if there even are any rules any more) are different today. Reporters have always had opinions about the topics they’ve covered; they’ve just not expressed them. That veil has been lifted and the lines have been blurred in a major way. It’s the same for the print edition – why was Jim Stratton’s Sunday’s story “Fruitland Park couple with 3 kids no job — depending on God” a first-person story? It could have just as easily been a straight-forward story about this couple, but instead Jim injected himself into the story. And the A-1 off-lead was a Mike Thomas column. It’s disturbing to me, and I don’t think there’s any going back.

  2. Nancy Curry says:

    Amen, Lisa. I noticed that in the Fruitland Park story, as well. Right at the end, where he questioned whether he would maintain faith in the face of similar setbacks.

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