Sunday, September 07, 2003

Putting the story before personal ambition

Josh Marshal is doing something you don't often see from mainstream journalists, what with their huge egos and desire to be the ones who break "The Big One": he is providing leads to other journalists.

Josh reports today on the strange circumstances around the sudden departure from Iraq of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Kerik had been brought in to help re-organize the Bagdad police force and had talked, on his appointment, of having to be in the country for "at least six months - until the job is done." Kerik has now left Iraq after only 90 days and his spokespeople are trying to re-write history to make it sound like this was according to plan (in fact, they even hint that he extended his stay beyond his original mandate).

As Josh says, "there must be something more to the story, no?"

Yes. But Josh obviously doesn't have the contacts to dig it up. So, by posting this information, he is doing two things: (1) trolling for contacts and (2) giving a signal to other journalists who might have the necessary contacts that maybe there is a good story here that they should investigate.

In other words, Josh is passing the baton to another journalist, who, if they manage to break a big story out of this, will get most of the credit.

That's called putting the story before your own personal ambition. How many establishment journalists would be willing to do something like that? How many of them have sat on incomplete stories of significant importance because they couldn't fill in the holes and they would rather the story not get out than risk not getting the byline?


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