Did Franklin Have This Problem When He Started???

It would seem WE are a threat to that paragon of virtue, the stalwart guardian of our country’s political pulse, and last but not least, the tabloid truth tellers and media marvels ….yes, I am talking about the professional journalist ™ . Specifically, a column written by Professor By DAVID HAZINSKI, published on 12/13/07 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It ranges from the CNN YouTube debates to political blogs to cellphone video of that sniper who opened fire at an Omaha Mall. These are all examples of so called “citizen journalism,” the hot new extension of the news business where the audience becomes the reporter. … Supporters of “citizen journalism” argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don’t provide. While it has its place, the reality is it really isn’t journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

Well, there they go again. The nerve of all of us “citizen journalists” ™ . Why we were only the ones who held CBS’s feet to the fire when Dan Rather decided to run with a story about some documents which implied our current Commander in Chief was less then forthright about his military service, but forgot to check his facts. And were we not the ones who brought to light some shenanigans going on with the political process of our friends north of the border? Oh, and what about a certain wanna-be writer for the New Republic? Amazing tales of service members gone wild!! You remember, authored by Scott Thomas … err Beauchamp (yeah, we wouldn’t want to err by not giving out his full name). There have been countless instances of the print and mass medias being “called to task”. These are but a few of the more notable ones.
So, Davy ol’ boy, (And I am being familiar because you seem to have the rare power of discerning who is and who is not capable of being a “professional journalist” ™ … if you are able to read my inner most thoughts and critique my talents … displayed publicly or not … well, this level of intimacy demands I return the favor.) what place exactly should this old journalist (and one time assistant public affairs officer), be placed into? Forgive me and my old school mind, but I thought “journalists” (and we used to call em reporters … as in reporting the facts) were supposed to answer “Who, What, Why, Where, and When”, to the best of their ability. And to update the reading (or radio/tv) public as the facts dictated. Granted, if you were lucky enough to have a column you could pontificate on the news of the day (or whatever else floated your boat, as long as you kept your readers interest). There was also the editorial page for your readers to submit “letters to the editor” and editors (along with others blessed by the publisher of said paper) to expound their papers views. Oh, I’m sorry you are a professor of journalism, guess you know that already.

“and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse.”

I have one response to this Davy …. The New York Times! Pot meet kettle.

The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

I guess the rarefied atmosphere up there in your ivory tower, must have thinned out the oxygen to your brain. Let’s think about your last little bit of wisdom (And I am being generous at that … for it is a microscopically small bit of wisdom.). Would you be as strong an advocate of having all the traditional media outlets (print/radio/television) subject to the same scrutiny and repercussions? And who, or what, would regulate things?

The premise of citizen journalism is that regular people can now collect information and pictures with video cameras and cellphones, and distribute words and images over the Internet. Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people “journalists.” This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a “citizen surgeon” or someone who can read a law book is a “citizen lawyer.” Tools are merely that.

Are you implying that so called “professional journalists” are above us “regular people”?? And I see you are a farmer as well as a professor … you must be, for all the straw needed for the citizen surgeon/lawyer remark. Last time I checked a college degree was not required to write/speak/broadcast (as in being an on air personality). But the state does task you to have meet licensing requirements, which entail getting some sort of graduate level degree, in order to become a doctor or a lawyer. Hope you like the smell of burning hay. Oh, and by the way, as you are not specifically talking about the military men and woman who handle their own media, technically, you and your ilk are “citizen journalists” as well. (Yes, I know it must be a challenge to use words and to know their correct meaning … no one ever said a journalist’s lot was an easy one.)

Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals.

I will grant you one needs to have a particular set of skills and talent to excel at writing. Be it as a journalist/columnist/novelist/broadcast personality. And to be fair, there are any number of people across the political spectrum who would meet this standard. But you lost me on the last part. The media (all branches) has consistently fallen short of being anywhere near “trusted” or “professional”. Need a case in point?? CBS. (Because I already used the NY Times, but they fit here too.)
Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.
Dave, you wrote this with a straight face?? Or did one of your students get into your computer, whip out a column, using your name as a prank??? I hate to beat a dead (or quickly dying) horse, but this statement alone applies to The NYT, The LA Times, The Washington Post. The New Republic, CBS … the list goes ever onward.

But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards. There are commonly accepted ethical principles — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principles is voluntary.

And professor, this is precisely why we see the falling off of readership in print media. Why “The most trusted source in news” is a laughing stock. Your so called professional journalists are … and have been dropping the ball for quite some time. Long before the internet, blogs and bloggers, or video media was ever a possibility, let alone a so called problem.

There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.

So, how about cleaning up your own house before sending the maid over in this direction.

So without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist. Major media outlets also encourage it. Citizen journalism allows them to involve audiences, and it is a free source of information and video. But it is also ripe for abuse.

Does your statement, above, imply the so called “professional media” is going to abuse the “naive citizen journalist”? Or is it really a case of both sides having agendas, and both sides using each other in order to try and reach their respective goals. (This being the case for the so called professional side of the house, as the available evidence seems to indicate.)

CNN’s last YouTube Republican debate included a question from a retired general who is on Hillary Clinton’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender steering committee. False Internet rumors about Sen. Barack Obama attending a radical Muslim school became so widespread that CNN and other news agencies did stories debunking the rumors.

Good current examples. But for the fact it was Insight Magazine’s article, along with FOX news’s failure to properly fact check their information/sources which brought about the CNN (among others) stories debunking the Obama rumors. Failure to properly fact check is always going to bite you in the butt eventually. Once again, see my previous examples. The internet in and of itself did not produce the poor sources. And long before the internet; poor sources existed. Through thorough checking of same, reporters came to know who a trusted source was and which others to avoid. Sounds to me like more of the so called professionals are becoming lazy (We’ll just use this internet info … why *fill in the blank* is ALWAYS correct!). Yeah, blame the source, take the easy way out … or you could do your job … now there’s a concept.

There are literally hundreds of Internet hoaxes and false reports passed off as true stories, tracked by sites such as snopes.com.

A very true statement. And for the most part, Snopes is an outstanding site to get the skinny on all sorts of internet floatsom and jetsom. Indeed, they are one of the recognized “first places to go to” for information on urban myths. Something which, with the advent of e-mail, has seen a resurgence, and a morphing, of tales. But most folks with half a brain will check something out, before running with it as a valid news story. Indeed, most bloggers, adhere to a “24/48 hour rule”, if something sounds either too good to be true or a little hinky.

Having just anyone produce widely distributed stories without control can have the reverse effect from what advocates intend. It’s just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.

And whose fault would that be for allowing an unsubstantiated, or poorly checked story to appear in ANY media source? Oh, that’s right … not the media outlet/reporter … it has to be the evil internet or the source period, regardless of where the source originated.

Journalism organizations should head that off. Citizen reports can be a valuable addition to news and information flow with some protections
• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.:

Silly me, and here I thought eye-witness reports were (and have been) used for quite some time now … after they have/had been verified as being a credible/reliable source. This kind of professionalism stropped after the advent of the internet and bloggers??

• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

Ya’ll haven’t been doing something like this? Newspapers have been alive and well in this country, since before it’s founding. Sounds like ya’ll have been dropping the ball. Just curious, but could this be one of the reasons why the words “journalism” and “profession” have been so hard to place together?

• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Sheesh, if all this column was really about, was finding a way to promote the idea of increasing the size of your department (and one hopes the funding for same), then why didn’t you just come out and say so at the start. You might want to get all the local professional journalists to take a refresher course or two on standards and ethics as well.
As for me, I received as much training in journalism as one would have gotten 50 – 60 years ago. (Or perhaps more, your mileage may vary.) Had a former editor/reporter for a small town paper teach my journalism class durring my senior year of high school. And the Navy provided me with a Chief Petty Officer who could quote you the New York Times style sheet word for word (and we had a current copy of it as well), when I was assistant editor for my commands newspaper. I also knew what a blue pencil was (from both sides of same). More importantly (heck, most importantly) I knew what would happen if I where to plagiarize. I knew what would happen if I was to knowingly falsify a news release/story. I knew what would happen if I knowingly produced articles which were inaccurate or false in the facts presented. At the very least I would no longer be holding that position, and most likely I would be up on charges … as in court martial … as in potentially a less then honorable discharge. But, that was never an issue, when you take personal, professional, pride in what you do. When you put out something that you know is going to be read. You strove to achieve accuracy in your reporting. It made it easier to look in the mirror the next morning as well. Sorry, but I don’t think I need a college course and or a piece of paper to tell me what I already have taken on board.

Journalists generally don’t like any kind of standards or regulation. Many argue that standards could infringe on freedom of the press and journalism shouldn’t be regulated.

Gee professor, then perhaps we need to find students who have the personal integrity already in place. Who will report just the facts in any given news story. Who know the power of words. And that the right (or the wrong) words DO matter when reporting a story. Who may be of a more liberal (or more conservative) bent, but will place that on the side for the sake of their most valued possession … a public who wants to read a news report with their by-line on it, because they have come to trust and respect the accuracy of the reporter who wrote same. Naaa … setting up *standards* and *regulations* sounds so much cooler then personal accountablity.

But we have already seen the line between news and entertainment blur enough to destroy significant credibility. Continuing to do nothing as information flow changes will further erode it. Journalism organizations who choose to do nothing may soon find the line between professional and citizen journalism gone as well as the trust of their audiences.

I hate to break it to you professor, but the news departments of most radio and tv outlets are nothing more then an afterthought already. There are some out there who do strive to tell the facts just as they are. With out political correctness and unwarranted sensitivity toward individuals and or groups who do not merit same. Who, when shown they are biased want to change that. Who know their public is really smart enough to make a decision based on fact and not on what spin is the best. John Stossel comes to mind as a prime example of what a good reporter can do and be.
As far as the line between so called professional and citizen journalism. Pardner, there isn’t one. And there never has been a line. The only difference is pay. The folks on the net who work hard at breaking a story and consistently strive in getting their facts straight are (for the most part) the ones who have the highest readership. There are exceptions but these fall into more of the areas of partisanship … but even there if you do not back your hard news up with fact you are not going to have the large volume of hits for very long. And isn’t it amazing as the media is being taken to task for consistently falling short on their fact checking / sources … along with the existence of bias (or for the sake of argument, the perception of bias which is allowed to exist), has seen the numbers of viewers for mainstream media fall off, and the print media wondering if they will still exist in the next 20 years.
And the funny thing is, this is nothing new professor. Back in the day, the Hurst papers were just as biased as anything out there today. Same with the Tribune or the Sun-Times out of Chicago. And that gets back to my original argument. You want to standardize … go for it … it’s about damn time. but start in your own back yard. You have your sources checked and vary them from time to time. You make sure your facts are on the level. You keep the politics/social statements to the OP-Ed pages. People will come back. The internet, it will take care of itself. There is a lot of competition out here … if we don’t get the facts right we won’t be read by anyone other then perhaps our mother … or maybe the goldfish.
So start teaching (or re-teaching) the basics. Push your students towards professional excellence. And leave us alone. Those who are good will be there with quality source material when and if the time comes. As they always have been … be it by word of mouth, letter, phone, or internet. You’re putting the cart before the horse. When it’s the horse with the problem. The cart may be a different style … but it is still after all … a cart.


Leave a comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s