Our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.
Next month I will have taught journalism at New York University for 25 years, an occasion that has led me to reflect on what I have tried to profess in that time.
Or, to put it another way, what I think I know about journalism.
It comes down to these four ideas.
1. The more people who participate in the press the stronger it will be.
2. The profession of journalism went awry when it began to adopt the View from Nowhere.
3. The news system will improve when it is made more useful to people.
4. Making facts public does not a public make; information alone will not inform us.
I’m siding with @jayrosen_nyu and @jeffjarvis on this one. I think @jeffbercovici buried his own lede:
Rosen, one of the utopian media futurists I mentioned above, once accused me of having a “guild mentality” because I wrote that a Huffington Post blogger had demonstrated lousy ethics when she duped Bill Clinton into thinking she was a supporter rather than a reporter in order to get a quote from him. (As part of the deception, the blogger, Mayhill Fowler, concealed her tape reporter in her bra.) My suggestion that Huffpo ought to tell its volunteer contributors to adhere to some basic rules when performing acts of journalism was too much for Rosen, who also called me “pathetic.”
Feels like a hit piece to me. @cmonstah gets it exactly right (as usual) in the first comment:
I agree that training and the hand of an experienced editor is crucial in good journalism. And that the evaporation of a media hierarchy has resulted in plenty of unprofessional goings-on at the ground level. (Hello, James O’Keefe.) But, lordy, let’s not act as if legacy media is too dignified and learned to chase ridiculous news stories. (Disappeared white girls, Monica Lewinsky, OJ? Any of that stuff ring a bell?) Certainly that idiot pastor didn’t need the credibility of media coverage. One that, if I remember correctly, every outlet in the universe swooped in on after the original AFP item ran. In addition, all of this overlooks that there may have been *plenty* of factors in Afghanistan that led to the riots. A general dissatisfaction with U.S. policy? Militants looking for a justification to riot? A million other geopolitical factors? Take your pick.
People from the digital world are always saying we don’t need journalists at all because information is everywhere and there in no barrier to entry. But these documents provide a good answer to that question. Even though journalists didn’t dig them out, there is a great deal of value in their efforts to explain and examine them. Who else would have had the energy or resources to do what these news organization have done?
On Fox, the news exists in order to generate controversy. And controversy exists in order to generate resentment. And the resentment is what generates ratings. So this is my most concise idea about Fox: we should consider it “resentment news.” I think that’s the genre in which it trades…
As a movie about Facebook, I think The Social Network is a total failure. It doesn’t even try to capture the social reality is it nominally about. …The subject at hand overwhelmed or didn’t really interest Aaron Sorkin. Or maybe he was contemptuous of it. I don’t think he “got” Zuckerberg. (Of course, who does?) I don’t think he got Facebook at all. I don’t think he understands what a social network or social graph is, and he didn’t bother to learn.
To the savvy, the center is a holy place: political grace resides there. The profane is the ideological extremes. The adults converse in the pragmatic middle ground where insiders cut their deals. On the wings are the playgrounds for children. But to argue directly for these propositions is out of the question: political reporters don’t conduct arguments, they tell us what’s happening! Instead an argument is made by positioning the players a certain way while reporting the news and doing “analysis.” Obama is getting things done; critics are scoring ideological points (big government!) or standing on principle. Peter Baker isn’t an Obama supporter. But he welcomes presidents to his church.
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