Source: A Line Not Worth Crossing by Jeff Bryan, Citrus County Chronicle; 1/16/22
No story is worth crossing the line to gain readers or increase web views by citing unnamed sources. It’s what differentiates us from those willing to be first and those eager to drive up website traffic [...] We’re not willing to compromise our principles for a few extra clicks on our website. We’ll leave that glory to the bloggers
This Sunday commentary from the Executive Editor of the Chronicle was a direct shot at Just Wright Citrus' post two weeks ago about Target potentially coming to Citrus. I get Jeff's frustration here. However, I disagree with him on one point.
His assertion is that increased website traffic was the primary motivator behind Mike Wright's decision to publish the post about Target from an unnamed sole source, undercutting true journalistic principles. While Mike had a cringe moment bragging about the increased size of his audience in the next post, I truly don't think this is the case.
Mike's primary motivation, in my opinion, was far less about personal gain but equally (if not more) problematic. His standard for publication was asking the question, "is this story good for Citrus County?" Sounds great, right? The problem part is, according to whom.
Swap out "Target coming to Citrus" with "this politician I don't like running for office" and the lowered publication standard of "is this good for Citrus?" becomes one completely untethered from objective journalism and one instead trapped in a framework of personal bias.
My evidence for this is that Mike defended himself in a follow up post saying "this is pretty much how it works." Of course he thinks that! This lower publication standard has been the culture of the Chronicle for decades. Good journalism never played a role in the decision to publish because the story met the only criteria that mattered.
Fighting this culture was the entire reason I launched the Concurrent about a year ago. I'm happy Jeff wrote his piece, although I do think it's harsher than even my own criticism of the situation, but I do think he needs to recognize where this approach to reporting was learned.