Archive | April, 2012

Who is a Journalist? [Take 2]

10 Apr

I’ve been looking over what I wrote at the beginning of the semester, and I have to say, I’m not sure that I’ve changed my opinion all that much. I still think that there are certain things that set journalists apart from every day bloggers, or “citizen journalists”, but I’m also coming to the conclusion that there is a real place for the citizen journalist role in journalism.

There are so many new forums where individuals can go on, publish their thoughts, record their experiences, and really be a part of the journalistic experience. I think there are stories that we never would have seen if it weren’t for social media and this idea of “citizen journalism”. You look at Egypt, for example, and the huge role that citizens played in getting the news out to the world of what was happening within. There are things that came from those citizens that we would not have seen otherwise, and I think because of that, there is a real need for that type of information in the journalistic process.

However, I think the difference between journalists and “citizen journalists” is the standard they are held to.  Nowadays, anyone can start up a blog and call themselves a journalist, but that’s not true journalism, and there are things that accredited journalists do that citizens journalists cannot. They have access to more information, and are better able and more inclined to objectively approach a news story that an everyday blogger.

The fact of the matter is, blogs don’t make the news. They take the news they find in newspapers, on TV, or other “core-news” websites, and either regurgitate what they’ve read, or use that news to voice their opinions. That’s not journalism. That’s free loading. While their opinions are valid, and it’s good when discussions are sparked from the news, I don’t think  it meets that standard that a journalist should hold themselves to. Continue reading


Engagement and Relevance

3 Apr

“Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. That purpose is to provide people with information they need to understand the world…[and] to make it meaningful, relevant and engaging.” -Elements of Journalism pg. 189

I’m going to start off by saying, that I have some pretty strong opinions on this topic, so just brace yourself for that. This issue of engagement and relevance in journalism has been seriously misconstrued in the media lately, and it has been seriously ticking me off. Should we make important issues interesting and keep our audience engaged so that they will actually listen? Yes. I mean after all, we are, in essence, storytellers. It makes sense that we should be engaging audiences through the stories of the people, the community, the government and so on, but it doesn’t mean we have to pander to the public and become something we are not. We are not entertainers. We are journalists. There is absolutely a way to make important news engaging and interesting without it becoming sensational, yellow journalism. Generally, if it doesn’t look or feel like journalism, it probably isn’t.

Take this lovely example from KSL that I had the misfortune to come across last week on the evening news. I won’t set it up too much…I’ll just allow you to watch it and perhaps your eyes will bleed like mine did. I’ll just say that it’s supposed to be a story on teacher’s impact on the legislature, but what it actually ends up being is something that doesn’t even resemble news.

Click here to watch the video.

You guys…what does “The Voice” have to do with teacher’s lobbying for more money in classrooms?? Sure, you can spin it all you want and say…well it works because the teachers have a “voice” with lawmakers. Right. But one of them has to do with policy and the other is a SINGING competition. I was apalled by this newscast. It takes what is actually an important issue that is revlevant to a lot of people and turns it into a marketing spot for NBC…of which KSL is a subsidiary station. My very favorite part is at 1:34 when they actually crop the reporter into an episode of “The Voice” and pretend like they’re still giving the news. I mean really, that’s something Jay Leno would do.

I definitely think a line was crossed here. Not only did they shamelessly advertise for NBC on the news, but they failed the public and the people they were covering. They made the story a bit of a joke and completely overshadowed the importance of the story…a story that affects children across the state and would be a great concern to parents, teachers, church leaders (etc.).  I’m not arguing that we need to be bland in our reporting. I just think we need to understand that to be engaging does not mean we need to “tabloidicize” ourselves. Continue reading

Comprehensive & Proportional

2 Apr

“Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society.”

Alright. So I’m a little confused about what exactly we are supposed to blog about since the reading assignments are all jumbled…so I’ve decided to stick to the topics addressed in chapter 9 of “Elements of Journalism” as it is entitled “Comprehensive and Proportional”. Hope that’s alright with everyone.

I thought this chapter was interesting in the way it linked back to accuracy. All the topics we’ve covered so far kind of intermingle…and I really like the example the book gave of journalists acting like cartographers, like in the quote I put at the top. It talks about how journalists who devote more time to sensational, or superficial news (celebrities…) are not only bad journalists, but bad businessmen. While it’s true that sensationalism and entertainment get really high ratings, at some point, the viewers have to get sick of entertainment in the news. What sets the news apart from other entertainment shows is…well, the news–the hard-hitting, investigative journalism that gives the news its good name. If they lose that, they lose their edge in the market, and they will fail.

I found a speech given more than a decade ago by one of the authors of our book, Bill Kovach. It’s a pretty inspiring speech, but a bit discouraging at the same time. I often look at the new today (especially local) and shake my head because it has become all about marketing, and less and less about journalistic principles. You can read all of his speech here, but I really liked this quote. He says,

“Recent polls in the United States which show a public increasingly frustrated and alienated by “the news media” have made this point with depressing force.… The reason for this loss of confidence in the press…is that the public can no longer distinguish between a journalist attempting to produce a disinterested, balanced presentation from a self-serving political line or tabloid sleaze.”

The public wants real news. They expect it. When we pander to the numbers, or the money, we fail them, and they lose interest. The question was raised in class about whether journalists should give the public what they want or what they need. I can say without hesitation and with complete conviction that it should be what they need. However, I don’t think the two are necessarily opposites. I think the people want news that they need, if that makes any sense.  Continue reading