Debra J. Saunders

As former KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil told the Chronicle, KTVU staffers "were working harder and harder and feeling less secure about what was hitting the air." At Channel 2 and elsewhere, "people are overtaxed and have more responsibility sometimes than they can handle. And sometimes, in situations like this, terrible mistakes happen that are bigger than one person. It's systemic."

Over the years, I've watched as journalists have been let go because they broke the rules in bad faith. For example, The New York Times' Jayson Blair and New Republic's Stephen Glass made up sources, stories even, and those fraudsters deserved to go.

In this case, from my limited viewpoint, I see an overworked newsroom in which people made an honest mistake, confirmed by the NTSB and quickly corrected. Then the managers who put those hamsters on the nonstop treadmill -- and kept it running -- discarded them when they stumbled.

In these days, when newsrooms have been whittled down to nothing and the remaining journalists are worked silly, I expect to see more such mistakes. I expect to make some of them. That's why newspapers run corrections.

So here's the question many Bay Area journalists are asking themselves in the wake of the KTVU purge: When I make my next mistake, will management pick me up, dust me off and tell me not to screw up again, or will it cut me loose?

Debra J. Saunders

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