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Friday, March 6, 2009

"More to Dubai than Glamour Alone": when an answer becomes a story

I find it curious how reporters work sometimes. I answered a few questions last week for a reporter who was writing a story on Dubai for a travel news syndication site that produces 'news' stories that are then picked up (or not) by their subscribers. Although I answered just a couple of questions from a long list of questions I suggested were better directed toward a Dubai Tourism spokesperson and a real estate expert, a brief part of one of my responses in effect became the story. So far it's appeared on a travel insurance website (take a look here at: More to Dubai than Glamour Alone). What I find odd is that the suggestion was that my answers would contribute to a much larger story but instead they became the story. Which leads me to wonder... was there ever a 'story' in the first place? Or had the reporter's editor just directed the writer to come up with a story on Dubai, any story on Dubai? Which explains the odd combination of questions directed to me. Or perhaps there was an idea for some kind of story initially but because the writer couldn't find anyone else to comment, my quote simply became the story. What do you think?


meesposito said...

They were evidently looking for something like a sound byte, which unfortunately substitutes for dialogue nowadays.

Sandy O'Sullivan said...

Hi Lara,

Oh dear me, can you explain to my PhD students why grounded theory sucks! Yeah, this kind of 'see what emerges from a seemingly directed series of questions' is just shooting fish in a barrel (I think you're either the fish or the barrel), something will always emerge, but it's such sloppy work. It's a funny one though because actually your responses are so different to what usually gets reported on Dubai, that it might just be that they decided that it was a more interesting take than the original focus.

Mark Hodson said...

Hi Lara, You're right, this is terrible journalism and a pathetic "story". These things only get published because webmasters regard them as free SEO-friendly content. I wonder how many people actually read them.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Sandy

Grounded theory... well, it's not one of my preferred research methods - as you can probably guess from my posts, I like to have a theory to begin with - but I guess it has its place, doesn't it? But is this kind of 'reporting' really one of them? And I'm not sure how systematic this 'reporter' was either. I have a sneaking suspicion I was the only person contacted, that contacting the others was all a bit too hard... however, what I found rather amusing was that the reporter asked if I wouldn't mind being contacted for their stories again!

Hi Mark

I totally agree with you and I wonder the same thing, but what I find most appalling is that the site that syndicates this stuff actually charges people to subscribe to it - and they do because I guess the people buying this stuff are clueless themselves. If you're going to make people pay for fluff like this then it shouldn't be fluff.

It wouldn't have been too hard for this person to actually create a real story... okay, base it on my comment. I'd like to see that statement get elaborated upon and debated in the media - but at least get a few differing opinions and create some kind of argument and offer up some real examples... it's not rocket science, and you could easily put something together in a few hours.

Thanks for the comments!