Share credit generously, and then some
Tuesday 20 May 2014
It was very interesting to read editor-in-chief Steve Adler’s account of how be became a great journalist [Stephen Adler: ‘How my colleagues made me a better journalist’], and then compare it with one of his most recent journalistic products - the exclusive by-line interview (together with Richard Mably, London-based regional editor, Europe, Middle East and Africa) with Egyptian president-in-waiting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
In the account Adler says ‘no’ is just the start of the conversation with a source. Yet when he comes to the trials going on in Egypt it is only question 28 out of a total of 31, and he restricts it to the Muslim Brotherhood. He doesn’t mention arrested journalists on trial, nor does he show any persistence in pushing His future Excellency when the latter says he’s not going to talk about this case in particular and that ‘we respect the judiciary and its independence and we do not interfere in it’.
Surely this was a great opportunity for some nice push-back, albeit butt-licking, to explore the so-called judicial independence and bring up the case of journalists and freedom of the press.
The final plank in Adler’s On the Origin of Good Journalism is ‘Share credit generously, and then some.’ Neither Adler, who works from New York, nor London-based Mably go through the daily grind of the Cairo office, which it is fair to assume did the lion’s share of laying the groundwork for this interview, including necessary research and formulation, even if it was Adler’s status that might have piqued Sisi’s attention. It is also fair to assume that some of these staffers were present at the interview; Michael Georgy’s name appears at the bottom of the full text.
I know it has been Reuters standard for years for chief and regional news editors to parachute in and cadge the byline for top interviews. But I do remember cases in the distant past when the top honcho would land, attend the interview, and yet the byline would be that of the resident bureau chief or staffer, with a reference in the story to it being an interview with the chief news editor. Ah, ‘thems’ were the days.
But wouldn’t it have been nice if Adler had given a prime example here of ‘Share credit generously, and then some?’ ■