Saving Pvt. Journalism, Part 10

Reposting from Blackfive in case my archives can’t be recovered.  Originally posted June 25, 2003

Aren’t you glad I’m finally finished. :)

There is more that can and should be said, but I think that I am going to leave it to the people I am trying to get to provide some guest blogs. What I have done is to try and provide some history and context to the situation we face, as well as some constructive recommendations on what to do.

For me, the situation can be summed up with the following statements:

Blogs are the long-anticipated “new media” and the new journalism. Blogs show the best, and the worst, of what can be done in terms of almost real-time information transferal. The best of the blogs report, update, correct, and provide commentary in a timely manner that makes the best of television and radio seem glacial in comparison. The best of the blogs also provide the thought pieces that are necessary as well.

Media consumers are becoming more savvy every day. The trust factor is down significantly with mainstream media and The Media in particular, and a surprising number of people are now turning not to the Web per se, but to the blogs for news and information that is accurate and reliable, as well as for reasoned commentary and debate. This particular trend is only going to increase.

The Media and “journalists” are getting a rude awakening on many levels. Bias, distortions, lies and fabrications, and much more are now being exposed in ways not possible before. Questions are being asked and answers demanded, a thing that is beyond the ken for many of these people. Outlets and journalists are being held to account to a degree never before seen in the history of journalism. That they are less than happy at having their own tactics and “rules” applied to them as organizations and individuals is understandable, if amusing.

Specific suggestions are reiterated below, with a listing by who needs to do what:

You, the reader and consumer of media from blogs to movies, need to:

1. Let your congresscritter know, in no uncertain terms, that attacks on freedom of the press will not be tolerated, and that blogs and people on the net are just as much journalists as are people at the New York Times or Fox News. Remind them also that America does not condone or accept the licensing of media.

2. Let your congresscritter know that you oppose other government involvement in, and regulation of, the Internet for any reason. What is free speech today is all too likely to end up as pornographic or unacceptable tomorrow. Beware the slippery slope.

3. Support your local blogger. Make that monetary donation if they have a tip jar, and make comments to keep them honest. Promote valid discussion and rational discourse. That is, after all, one of your duties to the Republic as a Citizen. It should even be argued that it is your duty as a Citizen of the World.

4. Since no outlet can have specialists in all areas, if you see a problem let the outlet know in a constructive manner. Offer to help them with correction, correct information, introduction to experts, etc.

5. If the outlet won’t make a correction or is otherwise uninterested, let the blogs know and see if pressure can be applied that way. Public ridicule can work wonders…

6. Be an informed consumer of news from The Media. Learn the track records and background of the local or other reporters of interest. If you find they are lacking, switch media and let it be known. Media outlets are businesses, and they can and will change tunes – and reporters or editors – if the proper motivation is applied.

7. If you can’t get others to blog about problems in local or other media, do it yourself. Follow the rules (learn the difference between libel and slander, and avoid both) and do the best job you possibly can. Yes, it will cost you time and money, but that is one of the responsibilities we, as citizens, must bear.

The Media, those that call themselves journalists and news people, and the pundits who publish or broadcast through the same need to do the following:

1. Abolish the practice of so-called advocacy reporting. It is not journalism, it is not good “press” work, and it seriously compromises any pretext at doing real journalism.

2. Make use of specialists in subject areas, particularly in science, business, law, military, and other arcane matters. These are not compromised sources nor should they be second class citizens in the news structure. They are valuable resources and should be treated as such, be they on staff or freelance.

3. Make use of specialists all the way through the process. From writing to headline writing, make use of that knowledgebase so as to avoid mistakes and other problems.

4. No outlet can have all the specialists it needs, so make use of freelance specialists as well. Freelance does not mean tainted or unwashed, and does not automatically mean compromised in the journalistic sense. Get some sense, and grow up on this matter.

5. Offer the same degree of transparency that you demand of big business, government agencies, and others. You are a business, a big business, and need to be held to the same rules and standards to which others are required to meet.

6. Accept the fact that journalists are not elites, and that the club is open to anyone. Quit putting on airs, looking down your nose, and deliberately withholding of the term journalists to those who don’t happen to toil at a major daily. In short, get over it.

7. Make conflict of interest rules and ideals have relevance by including political and other sources of bias as much a part of them as financial and work history are supposed to be today.

8. Start correcting mistakes online, and do so by updating rather than trying to put things down the memory hole.

9. Study the best practices of the blogs and start making use of it on your own online sites.

10. Improve journalism schools and training, so that students are exposed to new ideas, concepts, and more in school. Fair and balanced needs to start there, if it is ever to make it into The Media.

Bloggers need to do the following:

1. Operate to the highest standards of personal and professional ethics. This does not mean play nice or only use good and proper language, but it does mean getting things right, doing things right, and obeying the letter and spirit of the law. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

2. You/we need not only to point out problems, but suggest means of remediation directly or encourage discourse such that one or more means are developed in the course of said discussion.

3. You/we also need to make use of the fantastic opportunity to update, correct, and refine offered through the medium. The best already do this, the rest of us need to follow the lead.

There you have it. Ten posts, a lot of information and food for thought, and I hope that it does spark some good discussions on a crucial topic.

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