On one hand, if you listen to WILK for any length of time, you will no doubt hear some of the station's promotional spots; one of those spots includes Steve Corbett saying (among other things) "...I'm a news guy!". I've also heard Steve Corbett on the 'Nancy and Kevin' show talk about how they "do hard news"; to his credit, his counterpart in the morning, Kevin Lynn, seems to shun the notion that they (WILK's opinion shows) are in the "hard news" business. Clearly though, Steve Corbett views himself as being a news reporter.
On the other hand, we have pieces like this [Link Here] which in my mind have nothing to do with "hard news" and everything to do with opinions. Launch the link and read the article. This is Steve Corbett telling people who to vote for, as evidenced by quotes such as:
"In Lackawanna County, two stale incumbent judges want to be retained.
The above doesn't read like "hard news" to me. Throughout the article, Steve Corbett mostly notes who he is going to vote for (with phrases such as "Gartley’s place is on the bench."), but other times he is far more directional. "Vote no" seems more like a demand than a request.
So what's the harm? Both Steve Corbett and Steve Albert are both entitled to opinions, right? Hell, I hand out opinions in this space all the time. Yet I do not, however, claim to be a "news guy". I do not claim to report "hard news". No, I'm just a pension guy with lots of opinions and fairly good typing skills. Steve Corbett, however, does claim to be a "news guy". Along with that statement come more than a few tough questions, such as:
- When does someone like Steve Corbett cease being a reporter and start being an advocate?
- How do we know that Steve Corbett (the reporter) doesn't skew the news based on the activities of Steve Corbett (the advocate)?
- How can Steve Corbett be sure himself that his opinions don't skew his "hard news" reporting? Maybe he doesn't actually care if one bleeds into the other. Maybe that's his intent.
- At the end of the day, isn't there supposed to be a wall of sorts between reporting the news and issuing editorial opinions? In the financial world, we have this concept of a Chinese Wall to prevent obvious conflicts of interest, but yet such a separation doesn't seem to exist when it comes to the news.
Now the cheap-n-easy retort to all of the above is something like...
"Come on, people are smart enough to know when they are being given news and when they are being given an opinion"
...which always reminds me of the late Paul Harvey. Why? Paul Harvey was (in)famous for weaving commercials into his newscasts, hoping (in my humble opinion) that the millions who listened to him would mistake, for example, the latest miracle vitamin cure commercial with real announcements about real cures. It just doesn't sit right with me, precisely because some people are not smart enough to distinguish the news with a carefully crafted opinion piece.
In the end, it all comes down to intellectual honesty. I know, that's probably too heady a concept for a blog (and down right ironic for the Internet), but it's the best two words I can think of that encapsulate the notion that we all know that there is a difference between reporting hard news and issuing hard opinions. We all know it, but yet some want us to think that such a line either doesn't exist, shouldn't exist or doesn't matter. I think it does, but then again I'm just a pension guy.