Posted by: Dahni | June 28, 2011

Journalistic Integrity

By Dahni

© 2011

all rights reserved

“EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!”

This was a familiar cry long ago from almost every corner in this country. It was before television, before the Internet, before social networks and before blogs. It was the sound of the newspaper boy or girl, man or woman informing the public that new information was just released in the daily newspaper.  This was a late edition or an extra edition often after the presses had already run. It was the sound of Journalistic Integrity.

But this was a time when we depended on the newspapers for a daily source of information locally, regionally, country-wide and internationally. It was our source for much of our entertainment (the funnies now called the comics), advice, coupons, employment, sports, weather, events and pretty much, everything involved in our daily lives.

It was once a prestigious and honorable thing to be accepted by and graduate from a college or university with a degree in journalism. Journalists provided a much needed service to the public they served. They lived by a code. They reported the facts and we were to decide what it meant to us or even if it mattered to us. Editorials were for editors, not reporters or journalists. Their first paragraph had to contain ‘Who, What, Where, When and Why,’ or it was rejected by their editor. They were scrutinized, they lived in a fishbowl and their information was checked for accuracy, over and over again, for as long as it took or it was rejected. They were to just report the facts, not make up stuff.  Anonymous sources were not pirated, prefabricated, paraded, or prostituted, but protected. They protected Freedom of the Press like any soldier protects Liberty. They stood for Freedom of Speech, not the freedom to criticize, condemn or complain. The most honored and respected prize to receive or even to be nominated for was the Pulitzer. But the namesake of the prize, Joseph Pulitzer was not always interested in journalistic integrity.

But the service of a journalist was once so vital and so necessary to the public, there was a bond formed between them and the reader. There was journalistic integrity. It existed because their jobs depended upon their readership and their readers depended on them.

These basic principles continued when television became of age, at least for a while. Some newspapers were envious or suspicious over TV and TV over them. But they also learned things from one another, some good and some not. Television for example, had to rely on advertisements and sponsors mainly. Then came cable TV (subscriber TV) where you actually paid extra to not see advertisements or you just had to pay extra if there was no local stations available. For the rest of TV stations, how were they going to get potentially millions of people to pay for unknown and untried programming? How else were they to operate without sponsors footing the bill? Newspapers bumped up their advertisiments and sponsors too. Radio did the same.

Modern Day Rule of thumb #1. Those that pay all or most, get the most attention, the most coverage and the most favored or even biased treatment.

A lot has changed since newspapers were the number one source for information. To just cite one example, when Walt Disney took over A.B.C. television network, surely we must have suspected that entertainment was moving into journalism and journalism was moving into the field of entertainment.

Modern day media has been accused of being biased and even intentionally falsifying information. Why would they do that, perhaps to sell more of their stuff? Like movie makers, the media often argues that they are just delivering what the public wants. But only the United States Congress seems lower in polling than the media. According to the Gallup Poll information released June 23rd, 2011, confindence in these institutions were as follows:

Newspapers – 28%   *   Television – 27%   *   Congress – 12% 

Apparently, it is a two way street. We don’t trust them much and they don’t seem to trust us either. We moved.

We moved to the Internet, to online social networks and to blogs. Many of the newspapers have failed or may soon fail. This even includes those like the New York Times, which has been around since 1851.

Once upon a time, The National Inquirer was considered by most to be nothing but a ‘rag,’ or “yellow news.” Newspapers used to age quickly or turn yellow when exposed to sunlight.  But Yellow journalism or “yellow news” is defined in terms of five characteristics:

  1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
  2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
  4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips (which is now normal in theU.S.)
  5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism (1941) p. 539

 “The term (yellow journalism) originated during the American Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century with the circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.”

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism#cite_note-1

Today, winning the Pulitzer Prize may not be such a big deal anymore and The National Inquirer may be more accurate than the main stream media. Yes, the times have changed. But just because something is true, does not necessarily mean it should be released to the public. For example, if I ever become a well known author and anger The National Inquirer, they may want to try and discredit me. They could say that I was once seen by a psychiatrist and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. But they will have to dig deeper into my past for dirt, because both of those are facts and I just told you. They don’t even have to use facts, they can just make up stuff. This is similar to a court of law.

Modern Day Rule of Thumb #2.  Like in a court of law, it is not whether or not something is true, it is whether the jury in the court of opinions, believes it to be true.

So what do many of these media organizations do about this, rather than fix their own journalistic integrity? Several people have said that the Internet cannot be trusted or that it is something like a cesspool. And again, this is how many feel about the media. So then what did media do. Many tried or try to reach readers by offering online newspapers. Many have moved to include a Facebook and Twitter presence among other online social networks and aggregate readers like Digg, Stumble Upon, Reddit etc. to make their presence and influence known. Some have even tried to charge for their online papers and magazines, E-zines and E-papers or for their rich-media content. Many are now offering blogs. Sounds like if you can’t beat them, then join them. Then if you can’t take them over or buy them out, maybe you can just run them off.

Once, it was not about the money unless your were able to get a regular column or were syndicated, as most journalists barely made a living. It was not about exotic locations, but often assignments to the last places on earth that anyone would ever dare to go or want to go. It was once about respect and honor. It was about words and words that said what you meant and meant what you said. It was about being able to get to people, places and things for the rest of us, that most of us couldn’t get to.

Today, there is more than just the lack of journalist integrity that threatens the demise of the media as some of us once knew it. There is not enough of old school readers to support old school writing and their hard copy paper products. There is a seemingly ever increasing shorter and shorter attention span among readers. And to that, I’m still glad that I wrote this, for if I were an editor or a reader, I would have probably rejected it.

Digital journalism verses old school journalism might appear to be more cost effective especially when you compare the data that can be placed on a small 6″ X 4″ hard drive as opposed to what will print on a roll of newsprint that is about 3.3′ wide and weighs about 900 pounds. Still, with digital print, there are a lot of costs in computers, servers, website design and maintenance, internet security, search engine optimization (SEO), marketing and advertising, among other expenses.

But clearly modern day media must merge the old with the new. It must change or it will cease to exist. Despite technology, decreasing numbers of readers, diminished attention span and rising debt, journalism today can still be of vital importance to all!

The answer is quite simple, to fix all of these problems – RETURN TO JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY!

Well, that was then and this is now. Much has changed and we are in the age of technology and blinding speed information that reaches across the globe instantly and often before an old time newspaper can set the type for just it’s headline. The word “return” sounds like the past, but we live in the present and are moving quickly towards the future.

Often symbols can influence ideas in our minds to help keep us on track or to get us back on track. But what kind of symbol does the media need, in order to get back on track or to return to journalistic integrity? Long ago, reporters and journalists that lived by the code of journalistic integrity, had such a symbol of  “banging out the truth.” It can be modified today and still serve us all.

Wait for it…

Change is both necessary and inevitable. But some things never change. No matter what device is used, “banging out the truth” is still all about –

Journalistic Integrity!

Just I-imagine,

Dahni


Responses

  1. […] the rest here: Journalistic Integrity « Dahni – Just Imagine Written on June 28th, 2011 , Blogs, Media, TV, Uncategorized Tags: archives, barack-obama, […]


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