While most focus on the sauce, the meat of Jason Whitlock’s Big Sandwich, if you can find it, is probably a lot more nutritious.
Strip all the intriguing… salacious… details away. Why did Mr. Whitlock quit writing for the Kansas City Star on May 26?
According to Mr. Whitlock, he quit because his editor told him he could not credit another news source in his column. Bare bones, he made his stand on only this point. I’ve made stands on points just as seemingly mundane, and, of course, that’s where all the other saucy stuff comes in. If he hadn’t slathered on the sad history of his entire career in journalism, seasoned by a few references to childhood and college, the explanation would have lasted a good hundred eighty seconds instead of a hundred eighty minutes.
His editor said you can’t reference Yahoo.com in your story. Mr. Whitlock drew a line in the sand.
Now, you can look at this at least two ways. The first is the way Mr. Whitlock chose. The “awards culture” of the Kansas City Star -- fueled by the evil characters in his tragic narrative -- thought the piece he had written might bring the newspaper another plaque for the wall at 17th and Grand. The judges would not look kindly on a reference to someone else’s reporting for a major portion of the story.
It is not uncommon to think this way if you are thinking about awards. If you want to submit a wonderful design in the design category, you can’t use a background of roses you downloaded from the Web. You need to go out and shoot some roses for yourself and build the design from your own work.
The other way to look at this pivotal incident is this. Mr. Whitlock’s editor may have been demanding he develop the Yahoo.com part of the story himself, quoting his own sources and, hopefully, adding his own detail. If this was the case, you can’t fault her, or her superiors. Most editors would make the same demand. And, they should make the same demand.
I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. But I do find a lot of columnists today are little more than amalgamators, stitching together “reports” into stories then pouring on their own special sauce of opinion. The special sauce is their claim to fame. In essence, it is their celebrity. They think in terms of their brand, of using their brand to drive traffic to themselves – and, incidentally, to their publication.
Not a bad strategy for Rosedale Bar-B-Que. Let your sauce do the talking. Of course, the meat ain't bad at Rosedale either.
Amalgamating is essentially what most bloggers do. It is easier than the care and feeding of good sources, working the phones, attending the games or the city council meetings, and sitting down for the long interview it might take to get the one money quote.
The other way is to gather “reports” and let the money quote come from you.
You become the money quote.
More often than not, Mr. Whitlock has been his own money quote. He said as much Friday.
It’s possible Mr. Whitlock’s line in the sand has to do with both perspectives, the “awards culture” of a newspaper and the “celebrity culture” of columnists today.
--Lofflin … and, yes, I’m writing this in the back of the kitchen with a cup of strong coffee and one eye on the hummingbirds outside. No original reporting here. But, whoa!, I needed to leave for work six paragraphs ago. And, I don’t expect to win an award for this little ditty nor do I expect to get paid. Therein likes the big flaw in the notion of citizen journalism.