I think the Globe and Mail put it best in the story Blondes Aren't Going Away by stating "It's almost an irresistible story for journalists...news organizations around the world took the bait".
Going on to say that "work routines are such that reporters are cutting corners — or feeling that they can get away with cutting corners", however, may have been going a bit too far.
Both of these statements are probably true. In terms of news value, even if blondes were in danger of imminent extinction, the fact is there really isn't any. It's a story about vanity more than anything else. When did hair color start determining species?
The appeal of the story, of course, is that it's interesting to both sexes. Blondes, women who believe they have more fun and the gentlemen who prefer them would snap a newspaper up in an instant if they saw a headline trumpeting the cessation of their golden-coifed existence.
The second statement is worrisome not due to its honesty but rather its emphasis. The repetition of the phrase "cutting corners" creates a focus that implies that reporters are being lazy. Were the true emphasis on the idea of "work routines", it would more clearly indicate the root of the problem.
I read a story that cited a press release as the source of the erroneous information that was the basis for this story. It is easy to piece together how this whole fiasco may have played out - provided it wasn't a planned hoax. Press releases tend to be handled quickly and usually not by regular reporters. Those experienced professionals have beats to keep up with, meetings to attend, and would be burdened - if not offended - at being asked to process a press release. PRs contain most of the information pertinent to a story, so they usually receive less time and attention than spot news or investigative pieces.
It is conceivable, then, that an editor handed this release to an ambitious young reporter new to the newsroom. The writer of this article found an impressive second voice in Jonathan Rees, which indicates that they were genuinely trying to write a credible news story. The problem is that press releases are considered to be reliable sources of information. The organization responsible for the release is providing the news, and the tendency is for a reporter to seek out the impact of the info on the audience, not to question its validity. When the limited amount of time allotted for the processing of releases is taken into account, it is easy to see that it is often the work routine and not necessarily the slacking of reporters that creates situations like this.Posted by Jess P at October 20, 2003 12:12 AM