Friend-me journalism

After a rough start, Connie Schultz and a rookie reporter exchange tips and praise

Columnist Connie Schultz posted a link for her 113,000 Facebook followers on Wednesday afternoon to a Sun Star-Courier article about a local teachers’ strike. Schultz wrote that she found the article to be “unacceptable,” because it quoted a small group of parents and students protesting the striking teachers and not the striking teachers themselves.

Most commenters on Schultz’s post agreed with her, echoing that the coverage was unfair. Some suggested this was intentionally so, to promote a non-union agenda. Schultz agreed, commenting that the story “repeatedly showed up on my newsfeed, and several times was presented as ‘evidence’ of a growing backlash against the teachers. These stories matter.”

Cory Shaffer, who wrote the story, responded a few hours later to point out where he felt Schultz was unfair, to agree with some of her points, and to thank her for “the opportunity to learn from a journalist whom I admire and has inspired me, and has such a storied career in the profession I care so much about.”

After Schultz and Shaffer spoke on the phone, Schultz posted again on her Facebook page, this time to discuss a little journalism and praise Shaffer for the things he did right. Shaffer, who’s just one year out of college, acknowledged that the article Schultz linked to did not represent both sides of the debate but thought that his overall coverage of the strike—which has included reports from rallies in support of the striking teachers — did. “We talked about how, as journalists, we can never assume readers see all of our stories,” Schultz wrote, adding:

“I want to know when I make mistakes,” he told me. “This is why our names are attached to our stories, so that readers can always hold us accountable.”

Had our roles been reversed, I would not have been as gracious as Cory. Clearly, I, too, must continue to learn from my mistakes.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Correction: This piece originally said Shaffer’s article ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was actually posted on the site that the Plain Dealer shares with Sun News and ran in the Sun Star-Courier. CJR regrets the error.

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Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison. Tags: ,