Media Moves

Adventures in covering the Enron trial

July 26, 2006

Frank Ahrens, a Washington Post business reporter who covered the Enron trial earlier this year in Houston, recounted the experience in the June/July issue of American Journalism Review.

Frank AhrensAhrens wrote, “Even though I received no such mixed directions, it was clear that I had more writing liberty in the blog than in the news story. I think, really, this was more a function of the Post and Post Web site editors (and me) understanding the different missions of the two reports. Some people would want the day’s Enron news from a straight news story, and that would be enough, so we would give them that. Folks who wanted more likely would not care to read just another straight story about the trial. Instead, they might like some analysis, some observation, some humor, some personality — all the things that blogs can offer that news stories typically do not. I also took digital photos for my blog.

“I didn’t write anything in the blog that I would not have felt comfortable putting in the Post newspaper — though perhaps not in the Post’s Business section. Many posts would have been right at home in the Style section. One Post editor e-mailed me during the trial to say he liked the blog but wanted me to stretch more, simply because I had not written anything that could not have appeared in the Post. (It should be noted that this was an editor who bore no responsibility for my ravings.)

“It was painful to watch the news reporters in the OPR consider it a day-making victory to squeeze one colorful word or phrase (or quote!) past editors seemingly intent on running all copy through the Dullness Machine. God forbid we give readers lively copy.”

Read more here. OPR stands for Overflow Press Room.

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