Media should combine forces in Newtown, says an ex-tabloid reporter

A Romenesko reader who says he’s worked as a reporter for a New York tabloid “and appreciates the value of stakeouts and that kind of journalism” is bothered by the Newtown media invasion. The journalist, who says “I would love to ID myself, but can’t with job and future jobs at stake,” writes:

As a reporter and a member of the journalism profession, some of the things to come out of the Newtown shooting have been distressing and embarrassing to me — namely, what appears to be the crush of reporters that’s descended upon any living, breathing, intelligent person in the Connecticut town that could offer a morsel of information about the tragedy that transpired there.

Photographers at a church service in Newtown

Photographers at a church service in Newtown

There’s been all kinds of reprehensible behavior in the aftermath of this tragedy, from the misidentification of the suspect to the shoving of microphones in the faces of traumatized children. But what’s most unsettled me is the sheer number of reporters that have converged on the area, and the way that their presence creates redundancy, duplication of effort, and unnecessary stress on victims and area residents in the form of swarms and stakeouts.

Simple loss of manpower is one issue. Five reporters from each tri-state area newspaper spending their time in Newtown is five reporters from each paper that aren’t working on other projects.

But more importantly, putting that many reporters in one small place creates an environment that’s counterproductive to good journalism. No person — whether it’s a victim’s family member or neighbor — is going to have an in-depth, insightful conversation when they’re surrounded by a dozen correspondents (no matter how well-intentioned), with microphones shoved in their faces. Imagine if that crowd was thinned to one reporter, who could sit down for a nuanced, sensitive interview.

Here’s an idea: why don’t the interested media find a way to combine forces? There are arguments for why this wouldn’t work — it stifles competition, and reduces the diversity of the resulting coverage. But there’s a precedent, in the pool reports filed by the White House press corps.

I wonder if there’s a way that editors or managers of big city newspapers could come together to organize a system like this, in the event of tragedies and other big events. Anyone care to chime in?

* Newtown has mixed feelings about the media horde in its midst (