The News – What’s in it? What’s bad, what’s good, what’s up and what’s going down. You know the stuff, you just read it in the papers, or on the Internet or maybe even on TV. But have you stopped to wonder who wrote it or why? Isn’t that how politics works? The press and commercials and PR professionals write the news and we buy the articles to keep us informed of what is going on, or at least who is going on.
So, now we are told again about the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the various other big-name newspapers. All are trying to tell us that the economy is recovering, that job growth is back, that interest rates are back where they should be, that the stock market has turned around from the trough it had experienced so that now is a good time to invest. Do you believe them? Why would anyone write such nonsense? Well, some do, some newspapers do, and some have been known to print bad news.
A couple decades ago, the Chicago Daily News published photos that were fake. Someone with a long history of lying would pretend to be a photographer. Some of the shots were of actual criminals being mugged. The victims, of course, were completely innocent. This is just one example of the journalism malpractice that I have always considered the bottom of the newsroom barrel, along with the obvious puns.
Now then, I suppose there are some exceptions to this bad trend in news writing style, but they are very few, and they mostly come from places like Fox News. Fox is all about the controversy, the sound bite, the slogan, and the pithy quotes. Most of their reporting is pretty good, but on occasion they simply take a side politically. For example, when Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ran against Mitt Romney for president, the Romney campaign put out a hit piece after a news report about how Paul allegedly called welfare queens. Well, the news reporters at Fox News took the words of the Romney Campaign and ran with it.
Does all of this sound familiar? I can remember when the AP routinely released photos of blown out windshields in crashes, claiming that these were accident deaths. Of course, the AP was quickly corrected and the damage was made good, but it still gave the illusion of a news story. So, I ask; what is your definition of a news story? Is it pure fact, or are you more willing to bend the truth a bit in order to reach a political or editorial goal?
These are questions that are important and not well understood by most journalists. Therefore, the only way for journalists to differentiate themselves is to engage in good judgment, research, experience, and good journalism skills. Only through these can you truly become a good reporter. Remember, your profession is to inform, not to put forth any form of judgment on any given situation. Only when you have done this can you say that you are a good reporter. If you are interested in journalism and want to pursue it as a career, then you must hone your skills so that you can meet your goals and get the recognition that you deserve.