This is a bit of a turn - the mundane world of corporate media - a group notoriously lax about its own fact checking, is fact checking.
So. The story. The LA Times did a little investigative reporting into a controversial contract for $200,000 awarded to a public relations company by a small public entity, the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at The American Spectator, gives a master class in how not to commit journalism in a piece posted October 8 on "Occupy" events in Washington, DC. His article should be read by both those interested in becoming journalists (as a guide to behavior to avoid) and those trying to understand the lurch towards "post-objective journalism" exemplified by Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe.
Want to avoid controversy yet continue to style yourself as a journalist? Use "he said/she said," the surefire way of removing yourself from the debate while retaining a sense of personal gravitas! Yes, kids, "he said/she said" can save you the trouble of real reporting, for it ties perfectly into the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow news cycle. All that will remain is another entry on your resume! So try it today and you will appear serious, keep your topic opaque, and your employer happy.
Jay Rosen, who has valiantly tried to push journalism into a position where it sees responsibility to its readers as the number one consideration--and has been doing so for over twenty years, has renewed his push to rid the profession of "he said/she said" 'reporting.'
In 1972, I spent a summer as a copyboy for The New York Times, working nightside in the newsroom. Often, after the Late City edition was out, there wouldn’t be that much to do, not unless the bells on the news-service printers at one end of the room started ringing. They alerted us that something significant had occurred, something important enough that a decision might be made to stop the presses for an update to the edition. This happened often: we had plane hijackings, the shooting of George Wallace, and a number of other events that (among other things) gained me valuable overtime when they were not resolved until the wee hours of the morning.
Bumped and promoted. Originally posted 2010-11-27 15:56:25 -0500. -- GH
Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and other “news” anchors at Fox “news” have been reporting that Obama’s recent trip to Asia cost the American tax-payer $200 Million a day. This figure was total bullshit. The cost of the trip was far, far less than Bill O’Reilly had reported on Fox “news”
When called on it, Bill O'Reilly goes through some impressive linguistic gymnastics to try and make it sound like (even though the $200 million figure was total bullshit) that Fox "new" didn't tell any lies when they claimed Obama's trip was costing the American tax-payer $200 Million a day.
He claims that even though this $200 Million figure was reported repeatedly on Fox "news" that Fox "news" didn't report it!
Despite the murkiness and evasiveness of Bill O’Reilly’s defense, he seems to be claiming that because the original figure of $200 Million a day came from some person in India (and not a Fox "news" employee) that Fox "news" can't be responsible for spreading bad information. It's that guy in India who’s responsible for spreading bad information.
So, Fox “news” never does any fact checking?
The sorry-ass state of shareholder value-captured media, just perhaps!?
From yesterday's OpEdNews
Imagine the look of contempt on Karl Rove's face this past Sunday as he swaggered toward his star turn on CBS's Face the Nation only to be served with our subpoena sanctioned by the Secretary of the State of Ohio.
The federal subpoena orders Rove to testify in deposition. Our attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, intends to ask Mr. Rove about his role in the theft if the 2004 election, and to discuss his orchestration of tens of millions of corporate/billionaire dollars in the one coming up on November 2, 2010.
The International Press Institute is holding a World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava on September 11-14, 2010. The title of their congress is “Thinking the Unthinkable: Are We Losing the News?” It appears to be yet another hand-wringing event where journalists talk to journalists about journalism.
There is more than one way to interview someone for a news story.
Some journalists take the role of an unfriendly, disbelieving inquirer who wants to catch the interviewee in some moment of confusion or expose him/her as a hypocrite, ignoramus or buffoon. I refer to this as “gotcha” journalism.
Some journalists take the role of a supportive, affable colleague so they don’t ask any tough questions that might embarrass the interviewee. This often called throwing softballs, but I call it “brownnose” journalism.
The really good journalists take the role of an objective, neutral interviewer with no agenda except to get the interviewee’s side of the story. This is called unbiased journalism.
The role you take as a journalist interviewing someone for a story is important, but there are other aspects of the journalist’s interview that will also help or hinder your quest for a complete story. The words used to formulate questions, the tone of voice used to ask them and the body language employed in the interview either contribute to or detract from a successful interview.
On July 9, the following article appeared on the Reuter's blog:
It's pretty good news for journalists -- aspiring, existing or otherwise -- who are serious about their craft.
The handbook includes
sections on standards and values; a guide to operations; a sports style guide and a section of specialised guidance on such issues as personal investments by journalists, dealing with threats and complaints and reporting information found on the internet.
Why are they doing this? Apparently, for several reasons that are listed within the article:
- Transparency: At a time when trust is an endangered commodity in the financial and media worlds, it’s important that news consumers see the guidelines our journalists follow.
- Service: As we’ve seen over the past decade, the barriers to publishing have dropped so that anyone with an idea and a computer can be a publisher. But it’s also become clear that publishers have a varying standard of truth, fairness and style. Our handbook is a good place for budding journalists to begin.
- Geography: Reuters serves a global audience and the handbook recognises the cultural and political differences that our journalists face in reporting for the world. This is a handbook not just for English-language journalists in the United Kingdom or the United States, but for wherever English is used.
That's good enough for me. ePluribus Media has, since its inception, provided a section called the Citizen Journalism Toolbox; coupled with the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, there are now some pretty hefty weapons in the online arsenal for citizen journalists, bloggers, teachers, hobbyists, students and the public at large.
The game is changing; online interaction and information exchange is constantly evolving, and by finding as well as adhering to a set of standards that help us communicate effectively, the public "power of the people" to share information and stay informed in a world awash in propaganda and spin has just taken another step forward.
Via Parade and Reuters, this interesting tidbit:
Standing in front of a seemingly empty, pink-lit building in the Amsterdam's red light district, Cohen addressed onlookers.
"For too long, guys coming here from around the world have been forced to have sex with women," he said. "It gives me great pleasure to declare Amsterdam's pink light district officially open for business."
At that point, around a dozen scantily clad men appeared from behind the curtains of the building.
Cohen was in the Dutch capital—garnering curious stares and stirring controversy— to promote the local premiere of his new film, the aptly titled Bruno.
And from WaPo, a similar blurb:
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in his latest incarnation as a gay Austrian fashion reporter, jet skied through a canal into Amsterdam's red light district on Friday to open a brothel full of men in thongs ahead of the Dutch premiere of 'Bruno'. "For too long, guys coming here from around the world have been forced to have sex with women," Cohen said, standing in front of a pink-lit brothel building in the Dutch capital as surprised tourists and stag party goers looked on.
That should get a few folks all hot and bothered, regardless of their stance on gay rights.
Over the fold, an example of the costs of shoddy journalism and knee-jerk acceptance of sTalking Points.
Why is the newspaper industry important?
Why must it be saved? Is it because it's a bastion of information necessary to keep the public informed and to hold accountable those who "serve" in elected office, or is it important to save the industry because of its historic roots, massive size or simply due to the potential influence it could have on the current depression-like recession?
Dan Kennedy of The Guardian UK hits the nail on the head with his recent article, posted Tuesday 12 May 2009:
The challenge isn't to save newspapers – it's to save journalism.
A little further on, he elaborates on this by further defining the purpose of journalism:
The real value that newspapers provide, whether in print or online, is organisation, editing and reputation. Rather than spurning citizen journalists and bloggers, newspapers should embrace them, acting as trusted guides to the best and most reliable sources of information.
Murdoch may groan. The Sulzbergers may mourn. Simon may sneer. But the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry.
Let's pull that last sentence and highlight it, shall we?
- But the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry.
It's not the mere existence of Journalism that holds governments accountable. It's not Fox ("Faux") News, it's not the New York Times, it's not CNN. It's not even blogs or citizen journalism websites.
The media -- the "free press" bemoaned by Nixon and praised by Jefferson -- has morphed and evolved, but the value of the media hasn't changed with regard to the role it is required to play in any healthy democracy: the role it to inform the public and to hold the government, the captains of industry and the purveyors of power and influence accountable to the people.
Together with a solid educational foundation, the "free press" and a citizenry that is both informed and educated work together to ensure that the fiascos of the past aren't carried onward into the future. Had the media done its job instead of losing its way over the past 8 years, we'd be in a far different -- and likely better -- place in terms of matters ranging from social, economic, military and infrastructure.
- "...the goal isn't the survival of an industry – it's an informed citizenry."
And an accountable government -- of, by and for the people.
Hat-tip to peter1a for the pointer to the Guardian story.
Update: Check out this prior piece by Prof. Aaron Barlow:
The piece was written for a roundtable at the the Southern States Communication Association annual meeting in Norfolk, VA on April 3, 2009.
What follows is a contribution written by Aaron Barlow for a roundtable at the the Southern States Communication Association annual meeting in Norfolk, VA on April 3, 2009:
Collaboration depends on acceptance of certain assumptions, of course, including that both parties bring something of value to the effort. Given that and my title, you might think that I am going to argue against collaboration, saying that the amateur journalist just doesn't bring enough, that he or she isn't needed, even in the contemporary atmosphere of change and expansion in journalism. But I am not claiming that. In fact, I am not going to propose anything about collaboration at all, for I don't know what the best route for the future is, or if collaboration might be part of it. What I do know is that the amateurs, right now, carry the power in interactions with professional journalists; it is they who control the situation. So, instead of arguing that amateurs are the ones in need (though they may well be), I am going to suggest what many bloggers and citizen journalists have already suggested, that it may be that the professional is no longer be needed, that the fears of journalists over the past decade concerning the future of their profession are justified. Collaboration in reporting, as many see it, may merely be a way of keeping on life support a profession that has seen its day. Perhaps we should, as some have suggested, lay it to rest along side carriage-makers, milkmen, and Linotype operators. Starkly put, what may be feared by journalists for their careers may not be something that the general public need find troubling. The reporter running around shouting “The end is near” may be rousing up nothing more than a yawn. And the public may even be right to yawn.