COPPER HILL, VA :: Corey Latham summed it up best last night.  He shouldn’t have had to because the mainstream media should have been practicing responsible journalism.  What might that be?  Well, let me elaborate some.

As many of you know, I covered politics back home prior to coming on board with on a more active role.  While I’ve always been pretty buff in politics, I found out pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn – especially on the county and state side.  Mind you, I already had years of experience between covering ARCA, baseball, drag racing and racing at my local short track, but this was a whole new thing.

So, here I am, sitting in my very first planning commission meeting back home in Charles County, Maryland.  I had the basic idea of what they were doing; looking over logistics of proposed housing developments or commercial buildings and approving them if they met the letter of the law.  Seems simple enough, yes?  Well, no.  I started to hear a barrage of acronyms.  AC, CZ, IZ, PDR, DRA, APD and so on.  Now, I won’t get in to what all of these mean.  I had to research one of these in particular for over two months so I could write an article explaining how that system works to the public.

Anyways, as I get bombarded with these terms for four hours, my head starts spinning.  Now, I’m faced with deadlines.  It was at that point that I realized that I needed to sit down and talk with people to understand what all this meant.  I mean, how can I write an article where I have to explain something to the general population if I have no clue what I’m talking about myself?  It’s at this point that I realize that I need to talk to my editor and get him to explain stuff to me while also sitting down one night with a member on the commission to get a basic understanding as well as sitting down and reading pages and pages of zoning ordinances and stuff like that.

In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for me, after a planning commission meeting or after a budget hearing by the board of commissioners to sit down and ask questions.  Every single week, I had a list of “stupid questions” that I was directing to the county’s public information director or to the State of Maryland’s public information office or to the local Congressman and Senator’s spokesperson.

I hear it at the racetrack all the time.  I hear it on Twitter all the time.  When a journalist asks someone a question, whether it’s a question directed at Tony Stewart or it’s a question directed at Jay Carney (former White House Press Secretary), someone inevitably says, “That’s a stupid question.”

Well, guess what?  There’s no such thing as a “stupid question” in journalism.  What one person with knowledge considers a “stupid question”, I consider a question.

That brings us to this weekend and the tragic death of Kevin Ward, Jr. following an incident with three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart.  Tony Stewart is a larger-than-life personality in the sport, an icon not just in racing but in all of sports and a household name.  The incident became the top story on CNN by early Sunday morning.  Suddenly, journalists with decades of experience were thrust in to a situation that’s new to them – just like when I, someone who’s journalism background is mostly auto racing, was thrust in to politics.

10590499_596773515805_4780138149180902524_nInstead of taking any amount of time to research what they were discussing and instead of reaching out to people who have been inside or around the sport, the mainstream media found themselves too proud to ask.  It was at this moment that those hearing about racing for the first time were learning about how the incident occurred in a NASCAR race in upstate New York, because, Sprint Car, Sprint Cup, they’re easily confused, yes?

At this point, my patience has been exhausted.

First, I’ll note a few positives here.  I watched a newscast on Al Jazeera America on Sunday, which is typically my network of choice these days with all the events going on in Iraq, Syria and Gaza.  I found myself completely disappointed with their initial coverage.  It was when I expressed my displeasure that the journalists of Al Jazeera America engaged in journalism and asked what they did wrong and asked for an honest critique.  When I watched Al Jazeera America’s newscasts on Monday, their coverage was what I’d expect.

I also found myself surprised by MSNBC, a progressive point-of-view network.  I knew the media frenzy was coming and I had honestly expected MSNBC to be the worst.  Instead, I watched a segment on Morning Joe where the show’s host, Joe Scarborough, had two people on who had been around the sport for a long time.  Scarborough would ask them a question and let them answer.  It was actually a very deep, very well done segment about racing, emotion and stuff like that.

I’ll also give a shout-out to Brian Williams (NBC News), Dan Patrick (NBC Sports) and SE Cupp (CNN) for also bringing logic in to the mainstream media discussion.

But the positives were too outweighed by the negatives.  The Washington Post, a newspaper that once inspired an entire generation of journalists thanks to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s work on breaking the ‘Watergate scandal’, published an article about the sport’s “culture” of road rage.  CBS News ran a headline suggesting that the sport encouraged a “macho culture”.  ABC News’ report on the “road rage” culture consisted of a compilation of Bowman Gray Stadium’s greatest hits.

I’m seeing a “culture” of ill-informed journalism here.  And I won’t even get in to a certain drug-addict radio hosts remarks, America’s favorite former attorney in all her “Grace” or the out-of-context remarks about Tony Stewart saying he’d run Matt Kenseth over every time he sees him (he meant that he’d run in to his car on the track, idiots).

Simply put, several elements of the mainstream media feel they know enough about the sport, because they covered Dale Earnhardt’s death 13 years ago, that they don’t need to ask questions.  They have forgotten one of the most basic principles of journalism.  If you don’t know something, ask someone who does.  And if someone thinks something is a stupid question, oh well.

Instead, the mainstream media was too proud to ask.  They’re the top of their game.  They’re the authority when it comes to informing the public.   They have a diverse background and have covered everything.  So, for whatever reason, they were too proud to reach out to people who have actually raced or people who have been around this sport for a long time.

In their pride, the mainstream media has once again given a skeptical portion of the population a reason to be skeptical about the accuracy of their reporting.  Not only did the mainstream media’s pride cause serious damage to the sport of auto racing, they have also done serious damage to journalism itself.