I learned early in my foray into the journalism racket that precious few who call themselves “journalists” are to the manner born.
Television newsies are generally wannabe local celebrities who like the idea of acting important, being on camera, wearing nice duds and snagging a halfway decent paycheck. Few are truly knowledgeable and passionate about their work (you know, reporting) like KSHB’s Gary Lezak.
Print journalists in large part are nerds – writers not investigative types – in search of (and willing to settle for) far smaller paychecks just to have something to do. The last thing most want is to rock boats and challenge authority. With rare exception, it’s just not their nature.
So when some PR flack tells them that more than 100,000 people – a number greater than the entire population of Lawrence, Kansas – crowded along Mass Avenue in Lawrence the last time the Jayhawks won it all, they “report” it as fact.
Even USA Today got swept up in the hype:
“Early police estimates of the crowd said well over 100,000 people lined the parade route, but Lawrence police later estimated the crowd at around 80,000.” USA Today reported. “Either number easily surpassed the estimated 40,000 that celebrated the 1988 championship.”
It didn’t take much to pop that PR balloon.
Not after I got on-the-record comments from Lawrence Police and other sources that no crowd counts whatsoever were conducted and that they had no idea how many people were in attendance.
Which brings us to the here and now…
In doing so, Hlavacek made a critical journalistic mistake.
She reporting something as fact without verification or attribution.
Pretty silly, not to mention lazy as well.
The reason event organizers like to pump up and distort attendance figures:
Isn’t it obvious?
For starters it lends legitimacy and importance to whatever it is they’re doing – the cause or event in question. And secondly – more often than not – it enables them to solicit more funding.
So yeah, a minor league St. Patrick’s parade in tiny Lawrence, Kansas – pitted against Kansas City’s mega green day affair (that actually could approach the 30,000 mark) suddenly (allegedly) resembles a sold out Royals game.