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Elizabeth Arnold  On News


WHAT IS NEWS?

What is news? I'll go back to what I said earlier about how to write a lead. It's what when you come home from work at night, or when you see your friend on the street, it's the first thing you tell them. And all my life I've noticed about myself, I love to tell people what's going on, I love...it's not gossip. "Did you know that..." or "I heard that..." That to me, it's what we talk about over coffee, it's the first thing you want to say to somebody that you haven't seen in a while. And it's not personal, it's just, "Can you believe that..?" and to me that's what I like about my job, because it's what I enjoy doing. It's information.


A LESSON IN CONFLICT AND FAIRNESS FROM A SKI PASS

I learned a lesson when I was first a reporter for a weekly in Colorado. And I wasn't getting paid much, but I was working up there and had a ski pass. It was the Telluride Times and they gave me a ski pass. And I wasn't even writing at the time, I was a paste-up artist. Then I started gradually going up the ranks, and the paper got sued for libel or something, something that was in the editorial section, and the charges were later dropped because it didn't work. But I remember giving the ski pass back and thinking, "You know, that was for my first lesson," although I didn't write, it was the appearance of a conflict. And that sort of stuck with me, that no matter what you do, if there's an appearance of a conflict, we have to hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold to the people that we cover. And I cover politicians. And we, if you're a politician, the standards that we hold for these guys, I mean they can't have anything that remotely appears like a conflict. And so that's what I thought of myself. The other rule that I have is for myself, in politics it's very tough. Politics is where a lot of the reporters get the best stuff because they go to cocktail parties, or they're invited to the White House; the top reporters in this town were invited to the White House last weekend. Top managing editors. Johnny Apple. Jack Nelson. All over at the White House. There is a closeness among political reporters and the politicians that they cover. I don't seem to have that problem. Probably because I haven't been around long enough. But the standard that I hold for myself is this: People always talk about objectivity, it's got to be objectivity. Well, you decide to do the story, so objectivity is out of the window right there, because it's a subjective decision to do the story. "Okay, I'm going to write about the crime bill, and how Sara Brady blah blah blah blah blah." Well, that's a decision right there, I've decided to do that. So objectivity is out the window, so what are you left with? You're left with fairness. So no matter what you do, even if you have every side, someone's going to say it's not objective because you've missed this and that. So what I try to do is write the story as fairly as possible. And I ask myself the question, what I try to do is write the story as fairly as possible, and I ask myself the question, whenever I'm in a jam, if I think this might be seen as being too far to this side or this side, I say, "Is it fair to everyone involved in this story?" and that's sort of the line I draw for myself. There's a question I ask myself.

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