I feel compelled to give letter writer Daniel John Sobieski another basic Journalism 101 lesson. My first J-school lesson for Mr. Sobieski appeared in the Chicago Reader on February 28 and implored him to address a fundamental question every journalism student is taught to ask, “How do you know that?” I was challenging Mr. Sobieski to provide proof that ABC-TV’s PrimeTime Live aired the Food Lion investigation just for the sake of ratings during sweeps week.
Mr. Sobieski took the bait, and in a letter directed at me (March 14), he resorted to the defense every conservative uses when trapped–sarcasm and ad hominem remarks–plus an inept analogy about knowing ABC-TV aired the broadcast for the same reason he knows who is buried in Grant’s tomb. Answer the question, Mr. Sobieski.
In Mr. Sobieski’s original letter (February 21), he stated ABC-TV conspired with the United Food and Commercial Workers union to manufacture a scare story about the Food Lion chain. Again, I wanted to know “How do you know that?”
Mr. Sobieski’s answer (March 14) is both laughable and pathetic. He cites court documents, which can be found by browsing the Internet, that he says are “facts” and indicate ABC-TV producers Susan Barnett and Lynne Dale were enticed by a food union into providing false references saying they had grocery “experience” so they could gain access to Food Lion operations. Did they need “experience” to ladle out rotten food?
Perhaps now is the time to give Mr. Sobieski his second lesson in journalism. Let’s just call it “Investigative Journalism 101.” What are investigative journalists supposed to do, Mr. Sobieski, just walk into Food Lion and say they are there to do an investigative story for ABC-TV’s PrimeTime Live on how the food chain was selling rotten food?
Mr. Sobieski obviously has never worked inside a news organization that does investigative reporting or he would never have made such a fatuous comment. When you can’t get the story by interviewing company execs, investigative reporters resort to gaining admission to a company by undercover means. It is done all the time. Shocking? No. True? Yes.
The bottom line is the public is served by this type of aggressive investigative reporting, as was the case in the ABC-TV Food Lion expose. Mr. Sobieski may feel it was a breach of his own uninformed canon of journalism ethics, but all he has done is put on public display how little he knows about investigative journalism techniques.