Where I go, madness follows

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 8, 2003

First it was Cal Poly and the stifling of free speech, now it's my former employer the North County Times.

As reported by Poynter's Jim Romenesko, the Times last week altered a photo of a youth softball player with the Union-Tribune logo on the back of her jersey.

This is the second photo-related stupidity that the Times has done in the past few years. When I was still working at the paper (but not a night I was on duty), they decided to publish a photo of a man who backed up traffic on two freeways while threatening to jump off an overpass. Eventually the man jumped and killed himself. The paper ran a photo of the man in mid-fall. The public outcry, I'm sure, was much more vociferous for that photo than it will be for this latest stupidity.

Unfortunately for the Times, which does some good journalism, this will be another black eye for the paper. The violation is not nearly as serious as those of The New York Times' Jayson Blair or the Los Angeles Times' manipulated photo during the Iraq war, but it's definitely wrong.

The cause of the latest gaffe, however is readily apparent, I'm sure, to many former NCT staffers. There exists in the newsroom there, among some staffers, an almost visceral hatred of the Union-Tribune. It manifests itself in little ways, like the not-uncommon references to the U-T standing for Useless and Trivial. And it manifests itself in big ways, like photos being rejected because a Union-Tribune banner visible in the background.

There's nothing wrong with a desire to scoop the competition -- that quality is something to be admired in any journalist -- but at the NCT the animosity has reached an unhealthy level. It's good journalism that's suffered.


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July 2003



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