How real journalists act
Yes, people sometimes masquerade as journalists to get action
A Hamilton company recently received a telephone message from someone claiming to be a Spectator reporter. The caller was allegedly investigating “the unfair practices being done by management down there” but the company recognized the fake in pretty short order.
Ordinary citizens masquerading as reporters is nothing new, and this incident was not the first I’ve been alerted to, but it’s often done in a ham-fisted way. Perhaps they get their lessons from Hollywood, always a bad reflection of real life.
I suppose the continued existence and perseverance of impostors speaks to the power, real or imagined, of the press.
We do indeed investigate misconduct, ask uncomfortable questions and root out injustices. Often we are the organization of last resort for those seeking answers.
But those doing it under false pretences should be easy to spot. To begin with, real reporters do not ask vague questions; they ask pointed questions.
We do not leave threatening messages; we simply look for a comment or information in a timely manner. We do not assume that “practices” are “unfair.”
We ask organizations to explain themselves, and often they do just that, sometimes eliminating the need for a story.
Spectator reporters identify themselves by name — first and last — and are easy to verify through our website or simply by calling our newsroom.
Spectator reporters try to be polite, even when people are not polite to them.
Reporters should never use their position as journalists or employees of this company to leverage special treatment, unless it involves coverage of news. In other words, we might ask for special permission to get into a restricted area or stand in a prime location if we are covering an event, but not to get a good table in a restaurant, say, or to receive special service.
Nor would it be acceptable for any reporter, photographer, editor or anyone else employed by a media organization to threaten any establishment with a story or investigation simply because we may have been personally unhappy with the goods or the service.
Anyone who might suspect us of doing that should call or write me or any other editor here personally, or find another way to discreetly let us know.
All this and more is outlined in a document on our website that discusses at length the journalistic standards of this organization, which all employees are expected to follow.
Most journalists at large news organizations are also well aware of the legal and financial jeopardy that bad behaviour can put us in, or the reputational damage it can cause a news agency that has worked on gaining the trust of its readers and community, often over decades or centuries.
Finally, like many other news organizations, The Spectator is a member of Canada’s National NewsMedia Council, a watchdog organization that allows members of the public to file complaints that are reviewed by a panel of industry experts and members of the general public.