Bravo to The Times for David Shaw's article on news media self-examination and self-criticism.
One aspect of the awesome power of the press that was not addressed in Shaw's article, however, is its capacity to mold public opinion and elicit political responses.
In this context, I believe recent coverage of the RTD would make an excellent case study for journalism students. Shaw's description of reporters having "preconceived notions" when pursuing stories and relying upon "unnamed sources" as the basis for unsupported conclusions is clearly demonstrated in the RTD case.
These techniques, in combination with reporters recapping previously written articles as evidence of something wrong at the RTD and "documenting" the conclusion that the RTD was a "troubled" and "mismanaged" agency, resulted in a media and editorial frenzy. Elected officials were then encouraged to comment on the reporters' "revelations" thereby creating the public perception that something had to be done to solve the "problem."
The RTD case, therefore, goes beyond what Shaw describes as "sloppy" or "lazy" reporting. It is a good example of the "cynicism" identified by Allen Neuharth in Shaw's article. The RTD story was hardly presented as a "balanced approach" to reporting, and many good, honest, and hard-working people were severely hurt.
JOHN W. RICHESON
Assistant General Manager
for Management, RTD