Monday, January 30, 2012

without a name, without a trace?

Anonymous sources are dangerous.

If they are unidentifiable, who's to say they're telling the truth? And what about when your source makes a claim, that you decide to report, and then you get sued for libel or defamation? What happens then? But, at the same time, what about Deep Throat--the anonymous source who provided information to The Washington Post in 1972 about the Watergate scandal? That was news.

I think, in context of today, that journalists need to use intuition as to whether or not to report the leaked information. Is the source telling the truth? What are his/her motives for telling the information? Is it worth the risk and the potential outcomes?

But I also think it's important to keep one's word. If you say the source will remain anonymous, make sure that he/she does. Our book The Mind of a Journalist told the story of a Republican Party activist, Dan Cohen, who sued the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch for not keeping his identity concealed. The two reporters attempted to keep his identity confidential, but their editors felt naming him would make the story more credible. Cohen was awarded $700,000 in damages (Willis 22).

However, the anonymous source Deep Throat was highly useful. Where does one draw the line with anonymous sources?

Well, it's a thin, squiggly line that no one can really see. How's that for an answer?

I think a reporter must ask himself/herself the questions asked earlier: telling the truth? motives? worth the risk? So much depends on these answers, and, ultimately, on the reporter's and editor's gut feelings. Society is often told what is news by journalists--will this story be news, or just potential to be sued?

liar, liar, pants on fire.

How well does modern American journalism tell the truth? And how do I think it can be improved?

First of all, I think it's difficult to determine just what truth is--which is what the book addressed as one of the issues for arguing truth in journalism. Is truth just telling the facts? Because journalism is more than just putting the facts out there; it's analyzing and understanding and conveying those facts for others. Considering that journalists need to analyze the facts to an extent, I don't believe one can be truthful in reporting; analyzing, I believe, will always contain a certain degree of bias, a certain prior prejudice or opinion.

Considering this, I don't believe any journalism tells the truth--I tend to think it's virtually unattainable. I do however, believe that journalists can be honest and fair, get the facts straight, and try to leave bias and opinion out of their reporting. For example, most people will associate Fox News with Republicans and MSNBC with Democrats. Reporters' opinions are evident. Because of this, I don't believe this is "truthful" reporting--I believe in being as bias and opinion free as possible.

While there is good reporting, there is always room for improvement. The book spoke of the option of portraying both sides of the story (for example, the Republican view and the Democratic view); but I believe this would still leave room for reporters' or even editors' personal opinions and angles. To better tell the truth, I think a reporter would simply need to report the facts in the most unbiased fashion possible. After all, one wouldn't want to be caught on camera with pants on fire.

Monday, January 23, 2012

the daily universe--an evolving paper.

On January 12, The Daily Universe newspaper announced that they will no longer be printing daily, something they've done for decades. They are now transitioning to a daily website (http://universe.byu.edu/) with a weekly print newspaper. How do I feel about this? Well let me tell you.

Maybe it's just that I'm more of a romantic, but I would prefer cuddling up with my cocoa, blanket, and newspaper than I would with my computer. Obviously, I know this is not the case for everyone, but I love being able to hold the newspaper, to turn the pages of it, rather than click for the next page on a computer screen.

"This new digital-first format will include texts, images, audio, video, mobile and tablet app formats, and we will continue to explore other news applications," said Susan Walton, associate chairwoman for student media. (Read more: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/central/provo/byu-s-daily-universe-to-cease-daily-publication/article_67be239b-a037-5f94-a9a4-3f01a62065f9.html#ixzz1kK88npdk)

I'm not saying that the Daily Universe isn't going to continue to be successful, but I think numbers may be down for a while. I do acknowledge that the transition is a wise move, journalism is constantly evolving and this is a good way for our campus newspaper to keep up with the times. As I trudge the pathway between class and the library, I grab my daily newspaper to go and read it when I have time. Now whenever I have time I can jump online and read up on what's going on in our little campus society.

Not to worry, I'm sure next week I'll be on the bandwagon, embracing the new format. After all, we can always change and develop too, right?

who are journalists?

Once again reverting back to my childhood idea of journalism, I thought journalists were smart, polished writers and reporters who were well liked everywhere. I was under the impression that they received little to no sleep, although I'm not sure what part of that was from staying up working on a piece for work and what was from staying up reading and writing for enjoyment.

Now, before I'm even in the career, I wonder how that all is even possible. First of all, I thought they always looked perfect. Like, always looked perfect (which isn't possible for me at least). And I barely find time for leisure reading and writing now when I go to school full-time and work part-time. But really, I was focusing too much on what journalists look like per se, and not enough on what they do.

Once again turning to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/journalist:

jour·nal·ist

   [jur-nl-ist]  noun
1. a person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism.
2. a person who keeps a journal, diary, or other record of daily events.

To this I would simply like to add: a person who portrays facts in an honest, unbiased fashion.
Based off my previous post, it's evident that I believe people that accurately tell facts, in order to make people better informed, are journalists.
When I was in high school, I participated in a mentorship with a local newspaper (see their website here: http://www.alaskastar.com/). I wrote, interviewed, and edited--all the things journalists do. However, I wouldn't have considered it to be journalism if the facts hadn't been checked or the stories had been biased. Journalists tell the truth for the benefit and wellbeing of others.

what is journalism?

Growing up, I pictured journalism as newspapers and books, coffeehouses and newsrooms. Now, journalism has rapidly expanded to the internet, with newspapers becoming more and more obsolete, and observers are left wondering what journalism is now or if there is even a concrete way to define it.

Here's what http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/journalism has to say:

jour·nal·ism

[jur-nl-iz-uhm] noun
1. the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
2. press
3. a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines.
4. writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing: He calls himself a historian, but his books are mere journalism.
Our class readings pointed us in the direction that journalism (and journalists) seeks truth to give to the public. In our day, with the vast use of the internet, basically anyone can call him or herself a journalist. But does he/she have a diploma? Does he/she have a degree? Or is all that he/she has a username that will allow him/her to post whatever they want?
But really, does any of that even matter? Even if the person doesn't have a degree in journalism, it doesn't mean that he/she isn't entitled to opinions. In my opinion, what matters is if the information is sound and the facts are true. That is what makes it journalism and that is what people will read.
In my Islam studies class the other day, we had a guest speaker, Imam Shuaib (check out his website here: http://www.imamshuaib.net/). When asked about media and journalism and how his culture is portrayed, he remarked that journalism is a business. He wasn't disparaging it, he was simply saying that journalists need to make money and they depict what they see in society as accurately as they can.
There are many different interpretations of journalism, no definition is sure to stand the test of time. But one thing is for sure: it will always be changing and evolving, and it will never be confined to being what it once was.