Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"if your mama calls you sonny, check it out.."

Gordon Young tackles the difference between reporting and blogging on his, well, blog, Flint Expatriates today. His post covers the difficulty when reporters are told by the bosses that they have to blog as well. That's what's happening at the Flint Journal.

It's more than an issue of a reporter wearing two hats. When reporters also blog, there's often a line being crossed, one that's sure to confuse the reader -- and possibly erode the credibility of the news itself. And the blogs themselves? Not very fun. From Young's post:

Reporters are trained to be objective and scrupulously keep their personal bias out of a story. There's an old journalism adage that if your mama tells you she loves you, back it up with another source. The best bloggers blend facts with opinion. They are passionate about a subject and that comes through in their posts. They frequently use the hard work of real reporters as fodder for their riffs and digressions on a subject. At times, they can act as unofficial ombudsmen for newspapers, calling them to task for mistakes. At other times, bloggers can come off as wacky cranks — fun to read but not exactly reliable.

As you can imagine, it's hard for a reporter to play both roles at the same time. In many ways, the role of blogger and reporter are mutually contradictory, although good bloggers do some reporting of their own.

Young also lists some suggestions for newspaper bosses: ways to provide varied forms of content, while still keeping the lines clear.

All in all a good post. But here comes the riff, which is what bloggers -- as opposed to reporters -- do. I disagree to a certain extent with the implied definitions of "objectivity" and keeping personal bias out of news story. Yes, when we're reporting we need to keep personal opinions out, especially the ones we started with. But once the reporting has been done, reporters can't help vetting all the information they've gathered and ultimately having an opinion of their own.

I think that when it comes to reporting, the METHODS should be objective, in that you report the story with eyes open, from every possibly side. But, once you've done that, if you're a good reporter, the story itself most likely will -- and should -- have a point of view. I see that as objective journalism. But by the old (and let's hope, outdated) definition, it's not.

My definition of journalistic objectivity: no horse in the race.

1 comment:

geewhy said...

Ah, point of view journalism. That's what good alt weeklies have been engaged in for 30 years. But I'd never consider a well reported piece that takes an accurate stand based on the facts of a story un-objective.