It is not often that we as journalism professors get to see our graduates return to campus and give a keynote address to the state’s newspaper publishers less than a year after they receive their degree.
But, it’s not often that we have graduates like Alan Blinder, who today took a break from covering D.C. government for The Washington Examiner, to come back to his alma mater to address a rare joint convention of the Alabama Scholastic Press Association and Alabama Press Association.
Nearly ten months after covering the April 27th tornado for the Associated Press here, Blinder today issued pats on the back to his AP colleagues who worked alongside him in chronicling the events on the day an EF-4 twister destroyed a tenth of our city.
“News organizations can and must be at their best in times of crisis,” Blinder said. “Our first obligation is to the truth. It is not speed.”
Blinder recalled how the Associated Press often was the second, third or fourth organization to report details in the aftermath of the storm. As a result, they did not have to issue a single correction for any stories that were transmitted to hundreds of news organizations around the world.
“The AP instilled an idea that standards had to be first,” he said.
The Golden Goose
Blinder’s comments about the April 27th tornado were part of an luncheon address today that was part-celebration of what was accomplished by the journalists covering the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, and part-journalism lesson for the largely student crowd of middle and high school journalists from dozens of scholastic newspapers, yearbooks, broadcasts and literary magazines around the state.
“We must apply our standards of accuracy and fairness to all platforms, ” Blinder said. “We have to maintain our last golden goose– our credibility”
Advice for the Next Generation
Blinder’s four pieces of advice for the students covering the news during a time of crisis are worth reviewing for those of us already practicing the craft:
- Consider the source
- Even Well-Meaning Emergency officials Sometimes Get It Wrong
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Keep Your Humanity About You