Since Saturday, local media in St. Louis have covered the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. National media joined them, and on Friday, the story made the front pages of newspapers in the U.S. and around the world. We checked in with several newsroom leaders and asked them the same five questions about their work, the competition and the best and worst of what they’ve seen. This is part four in our series.
Gilbert Bailon is the editor-in-chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He answered questions via email.
1. What is the most important thing you’ve told your staff as they cover this story?
Confirm and verify information with informed sources. Lots of speculation, rumors and misinformation are floating on social media and with reader calls and emails.
2. Give us an example of the best coverage you’ve produced or seen.
Our overall deep local reporting and editing expertise with context as well as our days of strong commentary and engagement with the community online and through the editorial page. It is not just another headline here.
3. What’s the worst?
Not the worst, but the continuing challenge to move on the fast-evolving developments every day while also working on the broader, big picture story of what started as a local police story.
4. Do you see a difference in national and local coverage of this story?
The satellite trucks and anchors are focusing on a few blocks in suburban St. Louis. And the agencies involved and responsible are a tangled web, which partly explains the withholding of investigative information and disconnection among the various local agencies involved. Ferguson is an inner-ring suburb of 21,000 that has never seen such glare of the national media.
— David Carson (@PDPJ) August 14, 2014
5. How does our ability to report in real time across platforms help citizens — and have you seen downsides that must be managed?
Social media gives all of the local media great access to convey information, photos and other content in real time. The challenge is that the non-journalistic postings that muddy the public understanding and perception of some aspects of this story. Anonymous misidentified the name of the police officer involved in the shooting, for example.