THE explosion of online publishing has seen a breed that knows little or nothing about journalism assume posts as editors, writers, and so on.
But when one comes to such positions without understanding the finer points of the craft – as those who have either worked for, or been trained in, full-time publishing ventures do – the danger of overstepping one’s bounds is very real.
Writing is a tricky business: English is a highly ambiguous language. That is just the beginning of the area where one can sink.
There is also the area of where one draws the line – there are very real laws against defaming and libelling people. Even veterans of journalism sometimes go a mite over the line and face problems.
There are some writers who make a habit of pushing the envelope – here, their editors have to serve as the sluice gates and reduce the chances of a legal issue arising.
In other cases, the editor should decide what is relevant to the story and not invade other areas which do not impact on the topic under consideration.
Caleb Hannan, a writer for Grantland, an online website that concerns itself with sport, and is affiliated with the ESPN sports network, appears to have made a habit of going too far, with disastrous results.
Recently, Hannan wrote a piece about the development of a golf club – and ventured into the background of the person behind the club, discovering that it was a transgender individual. A few days after publication, the transgender person committed suicide.
The whole business is one that resembles a situation that would eventuate if a butcher was doing a tailor’s job: these people have little idea about journalism, they are just amateurs with great titles.
It’s a timely warning to all those who think they can publish and be damned.