Independence

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The group that presented the topic Independence in Journalism quotes:

“Comments are free but facts are sacred”

This is what separates journalists form bloggers: journalists must state the facts without biased opinions, and bloggers can write about whatever they want with as much opinion as they can muster. There is a difference between reporters who add some appropriate emotion to the stories, and biased reporters.  The group gave the example of Walter Cronkite.

When the reporter is expressing some emotion on a serious story, it’s appropriate if it reflects what the subjects of the story (or the public in general) are feeling.  Walter Cronkite showed how amazing the first landing on the moon was by his facial emotions on that remarkable report, which was only appropriate.  The first landing on the moon was a big deal; his emotion did not cause any facts to be different from the story nor did it cause any contention because that is the way everybody felt. I also love seeing this because it shows Walter’s passion for his job.  The bottom line to journalism is that journalists are in their profession because they love it; we must aspire to be like Walter Cronkite and not someone like Maggie Gallagher, who is known for violating the principles of journalism.

Authenticity is a form of honesty:

A news anchor knows things that the public does not know; it is their job to portray the sense of emotion the certain story or event they are covering, so the public can understand fully.

Journalists can be independent from those that they cover, but it is more of a state of mind instead of complete isolation. No matter what background the journalist has, they must be journalists first.   The ultimate goal of the newsroom is to have an “intellectually mixed environment.” We need a richer, fuller, view of the public.

Since everybody does have different backgrounds that can effect the view of a journalist, we must simply make sure that when we state opinions, we don’t give them as fact.  That way, journalists can still be independent because their opinions will be separated from the facts.  We cannot be independent of the person we are.  Ultimately, WE CANNOT BE FULLY INDEPENDENT, BUT WE CANNOT BE DEPENDENT OF FACTION!

What do you think is appropriate for journalists to do outside of their jobs?

Like Linda Greenhouse going to a rally for a certain cause.  Does that mean she is biased in her writing? No.  True, it could matter to some how you publicize your opinion because some people might take you as biased.  Then again, journalists are some of the most informed people in society in all aspects, so it would be a loss to not allow journalists to voice their opinions in the public (not newsroom).

 

The Journalist as an Idealogue

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This particular presentation I won’t lie, caused me some headache and anxiety.  Everybody in the class was becoming so opinionated and I thought to myself: “Chill out everybody!” I may have just been in an anxious mood or have been hearing too much about what a journalist could be, that inside I just cracked; but maybe I’m right.  Every week in Comms 239, we have been learning that a journalist should be objective, detached, impartial, and that their first loyalty is to the reader.  I can tell you for endless hours how a journalist must have credible sources and get their facts strait without being biased.  Their writing must be transparent and original but remember what type of ambiguity your audience needs. So what is the point? Now, I know much better what it takes to be a journalist; however, I still believe my previous thought of what a journalist is–a sense-maker and a writer of important facts.  Truthfully, I believe there is too much contention over what a journalist is or does.  Now that we understand what they are supposed to do, we can be the best journalists as we can, but can we move on?  Journalists know what they must do so lets leave it to that.

What I did like from this week’s lesson, is learning that journalists should use the inference language, which is an interpretation or making a picture of all the puzzle pieces.  Journalists should not just report, but get the down-low of “how” something happened and let the public know.  This is what I loved because it finally made journalists seem more interesting!  The words we’ve learned that journalists should be, makes them seem so boring I couldn’t stand it.  I believe this is a turning point for me and we’re getting into the good stuff.  When I write stories, it must have a purpose; I can’t simply tell a story for the heck of it.  Why does it matter?  The answer to that question is what brings people in.  Stories are communication skills. It is what I want to know so I’d hope that is what journalists can give to the public.

 

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Another subject I’d like to touch on, is the question of a journalist’s complete objectivity.  I do not believe it is possible.  Opinions and twists on stories are what makes a story interesting!  We can be unbiased, but points of view will sneak into a story without even meaning to simply because the writer cannot change their background.  For example, if I just stated the facts of what a journalist should be without explanation or purpose or my idea behind the facts, people would be left wondering why and probably not even read my article. We must make it a story or facts with a purpose!

In the reporting sense, we must remember that your tone of voice can sound judgmental, so we must be cautious! This following link is to a video that shows how body language can effect what you are saying:

Judgmental Thief

I loved learning as well, what values are most important to Americans because, as a whole, the public is usually unaware.  We know very well what we individually think is important, but it is good to know what is important to everyone:

1. Altraistic Democracy 2. Responsible Capitalism 3. Order 4. Moderation 5. Leadership 6. Small-town Pastoralism 7. Rugged Individualism 8. Ethnocentrism.

These values shape our society and are very true to the U.S. They are important overall to the well-being of our country and journalists who know this can better cover their subjects.

Establishing the Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

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The third elements of journalism is: the essence of journalism is a disciple of verification.

Verification is what separates journalism from blogs, propaganda, films, etc. The three main points of verification are as follows: objectivity, transparency, and originality.

What is considered a reliable source? For me, it is when the story is stated as fact, something believable, with credible sources to back it up, and evidence of its occurrence. In the chapter on “Journalism and Verification,” in the book Elements of Journalism, it correctly states how the term objectivity is a misunderstood concept today and is largely lost. Many people think too much on this subject; as long as a journalist writes the facts, the truth will unveil itself regardless if there is a slight unbalanced perspective.  This included not putting emotional spins on a story or assuming anything. Never assume.

To ensure verification and maintain credibility in writing:

1. Never add anything that was not there.

2. Never deceive the audience.

3. Be as transparent as possible about your methods and motives.

4. Rely on your own original reporting

5. Exercise humility.

Humility means recognizing your errors.  We are not perfect; we are only human and we all make mistakes. The majority of the public does not like arrogant writers.  In addition to taking account of your mistakes as a writer, reading an article that is dripping with ego is thoroughly unenjoyable anyway.

“How can you claim to be seeking to convey the truth if your not truthful with the audience in the first place?”       –The Elements of Journalism

Transparency in writing is giving the audience the answers to questions like “How do you know what you know?”

This article gives a different view of transparent journalism, claiming to share personal aspect of your life to the writer. To be a transparent writer, does not mean you must open you personal life to the public.

Transparency in writing shows the writer’s respect for the reader and gives the reader a reason to trust the writer. It allows us to believe certain stories and disbelieve others.  Transparency shows the audience that there are no secrets; simply the facts how the audience wants.  It is called the key to credibility.  A journalist must include as much as possible about how the news organization got their information.  So how do we obtain it?  State both sides of the story, even if you do not have the answer. That exercises humility as well as gaining transparency.  To be more transparent and verified, sources should be made known instead of anonymous if possible. Writers must give reasons behind their actions; leave no secrets.  I don’t know about you, but whenever somebody acts like they are hiding something, I immediately become skeptical and defensive.  I am also so curious I need to find out what they were hiding–we wouldn’t want our audience to find out something we did not tell them.  That wouldn’t look so good.

Originality–another key aspect of verification.

Just like back in the fifth grade, not doing you own work gets you in trouble.  If a writer is not original, why trust them?  Credibility is lost once an esteemed journalist is found to be a fraud. Being original is part of being a journalist.  Do your own work and do it for yourself. Find the facts on your own, find credible sources on your own, and don’t be influenced by other media.

An example of a writer who did not follow these points of verification is Jayson Blair. Obviously he did not give credible sources–they were made up.

As long as we, as writers, follow the objectivity, transparency, and originality points, we can maintain credibility with our audience and change the world one blog at a time.

“Silence or Death”

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Journalism in the Context of Mexico’s Drug War

 

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BYU had the privilege of hearing the Mexican journalist Luis Najera this past week.  He has an epic story of covering the drug wars and even had to flee in order to be safe.  I loved hearing his story and his perspective on the journalist side.  He truly embodies his work and his passion.

I have never personally known a serious journalist, so I loved listening to Mr. Najera and the passion he had. His story was intriguing, but the way he told it was what hit me.  The look on his face and the seriousness in his voice is what told the true story of crisis he witnessed. He would have been killed if he had not fled. 

Luis Najera separated his presentation into the main problems of Mexico: criminal, governance, and society. He has close friends killed by these serious issues, and witnessed many other journalists injured and innocent civilians murdered.

Americans do not know what is going on in these countries with the drug deals unless they are directly involved.  All of Mexico is a war zone.  Thousands of people have been displaced because of violence, Mr. Najera included. The biggest problem is that the world considers problems in the southern hemisphere as an “us” and “them” problem.  It should be an “our” problem. People unfortunately don’t think that way.

Not only does Mr. Najera know about these problems, but he has first hand experience.  He is a journalist who risked his life numerous times, being only feet away from the drug dealers and dead men lying on the street. First hand, he has seen the police with these drug dealers.  If crime and drugs weren’t enough of the problem, the government cannot even be relied on.  When Mr. Najera showed the shocking pictures of a drug deal going down in common streets, all he got was a tiny picture in the paper–risking your life for an inch in the paper; is it worth it?

My favorite part of his presentation, was when he tied it together to the bigger message at the end.  Why did Mr. Najera leave the risk journalists must take for the truth?  If he is such a dedicated journalist why did he flee to Canada?  He flatly said as a journalist you must be willing to die.  Yet, he fled. Why?  The answer to these questions were answered with two simple pictures: the temple, and Luis Najera’s family.

 

 

 

The Professional

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“After Watergate, which happened when I was in college, I became increasingly inspired by journalism as a way to change the world. It sounds corny, but to wake the public up, to serve a higher cause.”
David Talbot

As consumers of news, we know that there are many stereotypes of a journalist.  These include thinking journalists are people who are angry at the world or that journalists’ worldview are all the same.  Some people may be like this, because it is extremely hard to be objective–but no matter if a person is a journalist or not, everyone has their own worldview.

A worldview does not mean the writer is biased. The book, The Mind of a Journalist, claims, “A worldview is not a bias, and it’s not a prejudice.” It simply means one might look at a story in a different perspective than someone else.  It comes from being raised in different places and by different people. The following link gives a great example of perspectives and how they benefit us: Stereotypes and Generalities.

For example, my worldview as a California girl raised by conservative parents, would be one completely different than a liberalist in another country.  These different world views can affect what journalists think is important news or not.  The concept of time is one minor example of how different places and cultures can be.  In America, everything is fast-pased and “what is happening now” oriented.  In a place like Saudi Arabia, this does not matter as much as much as quality. Ambiguity changes per areas too.  Some countries prefer high-context–which is having every detail known, while countries like America are okay with the low-context scale of ambiguity.  The writer’s job is to decipher what context their audience will be, and direct their article toward that scale, sometimes needing more detail, sometimes less.

What is “newsworthy” in our country?  Why do we constantly see bad things in the news?  Something I never thought of before, but rings true once I learned it, is that America is an optimistic country.  We have this expectation to fulfill, that things will turn out just right.  So when things do not fulfill this expectation, it is news.  This concept of newsworthy in America, is completely different than a country like Mexico or India; they see bad all the time so when something good happens, it becomes news.

Ethnocentrism is also another worldview that works because it gives the news in the country’s perspective in which it is writing. Ethnocentrism is the idea that “your” country or culture is better than others.  It shows news through your own lens.  Some people argue this is being biased, but experiments have been done where a journalist tries to immerse themselves in another culture and it simply cannot be done.  You are true to whoever you are, whatever worldview you have, whatever you strongly believe in.  Then comes the part of the journalist to write their worldview without turning it into biased.

The “New Journalism” belief is to immerse yourself in the story.  This has its pros and cons, as everything else does.  A positive in this that journalists can discover the insider-view to whatever they are writing about.  A negative attribute to this concept is where to draw the line between detachment and involvement.  The proper way ultimately is up to the writer.  “To each his own” as the old saying goes.  If being “involved” with a story means you interfered to save somebody’s life, that is a humanist’s duty and more important to humanity than it is to your journalistic perspective.

We are all uniquely defined by our beliefs, attitudes, and values.

This means, every journalist is different; just as no two people are alike.  But under all that diversity, there is the Priesthood of Journalists.  This loose-knit fraternity binds journalists to surrender to the higher calling of serving others–once again bringing in the concept of a journalist’s first priority is the viewer.

The Priesthood of Journalism is as follows: 

1. Journalism is the “fourth estate,” meaning it is a powerful, unofficial branch of government. When you think about everything the press has unleashed, this first aspect of journalism cannot be more true.  Journalism causes problems, creates solutions, shapes the nation.

2. The norms and ethics of the calling are a product of a kind of journalistic inbreeding; meaning journalists learn their skills and writing habits from other journalists.  They are expected to uphold guidelines but nobody is actually checkin to make sure they are followed.

3. Journalists must separate themselves from others in the community.  This is in order to clearly state the facts without favoring any side. It also includes emotional self-preservation.

4. Confidentiality. This can be good or bad because it gives a writer more information, but can also be seen as less-credible or even dangerous in terms of the law.  Bottom line: editors discourage confidentiality.

As long as journalist follow this unofficial priesthood, we don’t have to worry about people thinking things like this:  “All of journalism is a shrinking art. So much of it is hype. The O.J. Simpson story is a landmark in the decline of journalism.”     Dick Schaap

Who Journalists Work For

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“I don’t work for you. You’re paying my check, and I’m very pleased. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t work for you, and if it comes down to a question of loyalty, my loyalty will be to the person who turns on the television set…. When I made that position clear, [it was] never questioned.”  –Nick Clooney, a former newscaster in multiple cities

A journalist’s first loyalty is to citizens! AKA, you and me.

Does this happen?? Do journalists really write with someone like me in mind? Or rather is it for their job and how much money they will get?

Nick Clooney stated the job of a journalist: “One the importance of the journalist’s job is to report the abnormal events of the day and be the watchdog to find out when something goes wrong in our towns, cities, states, and nation.”

The question stemmed about a journalist’s motives when incentives were given by businesses to increase the success of a story. The book Elements of Journalism boldly stated, “America’s journalistic leaders had been transformed into businesspeople.”

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), agrees that the concept of news has been changing. Journalists have to make money, but their first loyalty must always remain with the consumer.  Certain newspapers have remained true to this philosophy, like the Los Angeles Times.

This article is a good example why the Los Angeles Times are trustworthy. They are aware of the issues and do something about it.

The incentive to write stories that pay, or the business side of journalism, can warp the relationship between citizen and newspeople.  It can twist stories to lean to a certain direction. For example, The Washington Times has an article that shows this problem. Sometimes the companies can try too hard to reach the public attention and wander from the journalism principles of truth and loyalty.

Either people try too hard and loose sight of what they were set out to do in the first place, or they never knew what they were even supposed to do. Journalists must find their purpose, the goal, their dedication–it is to the people.

Journalists need to be independent from the business side, but not be isolated from society either. Isolation causes journalist’s stories to grow in cynicism and stray towards a different, perhaps smaller audience.

The business triangle of Journalism brings in the three factors that make good journalism: The citizen at the top, the news organization on one point, and the advertiser (or customer) on the other point.

Journalism Triangle

Journalism Triangle

The 5 ways to preserve journalism:

1.  The owner/corporation must be committed to citizens first

2. Hire buisiness managers who also put citizens first

3. Set and communicate clear standards

4. Journalists have final say over news

5. Communicate clear standards to the public

Seems reasonable. I would believe this news organization.

Who is a journalist?

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A journalist is a person who writes about news people should know, and they do so in a way that can give the public an opinion about the truth. The first journalists came from England in their coffeehouses and pubs writing about what they’ve seen or heard from traveling. Journalists now, have changed in the way they do things but they still have the exclusive purpose to give people the information they need. As the New York Times put in their paper, they are to serve the governed, not the governors. Journalists are the ones who stand above all the extremely opinionated and biased bloggers and self-journalists and as futurist Paul Saffo stated, “come to conclusions in uncertain environments.” Today, journalists have to be extremely careful in order to make sure their information if reliable and valid.  There are too many false sites on the internet and warped truths that it becomes a journalist’s job to get down to the core truth. Journalists are leaders of all the other self-journalists. They have to relate to every person’s needs in order to give them a voice. It’s a hard job to decide which topics are most important and how to call the public to action, yet that is the mind of a journalist. Verify the truth and get it out for the public to comprehend and grasp.