Monday, September 28, 2009

sometimes it's funny ...

... when people who clearly have never worked in a newsroom pontificate about journalism. In this case, specifically, a TechCrunch piece by MG Siegler, on new WaPo rules relegating tweets to the social media no-no list.

Seigler finds this laughable:

Obviously, WaPo is doing this to try and maintain what it perceives to be its journalistic integrity. That’s great. But as we’ve discussed recently, the idea that any kind of reporting lacks any kind of bias on some level is laughable. It’s fine if you want your organization to only present the facts with no opinions, but the notion that those reporters do not have their own opinions is absurd. WaPo can try to hide those opinions all they want, but they exist, regardless.
I find Siegler, well, naive. (Maybe he is confusing columnists with reporters and editors?) Sure journalists have opinions, but good ones who want to keep their jobs, not to mention their reputations, don't interject same into their reporting methods -- or final stories, unless they are validated by things called facts. That's objective journalism. Let's review: objectivity does not mean some silly kind of artificial balance. Nor does it mean neutral. And yes, point-of view journalism can be, and often is, objective journalism, so long as the news-gathering has been fair, thorough and multi-sided. In other words, the reporter (even one with opinions) went into the story willing to be proven wrong. (I could go on. Better, just plug objectivity into the search box, above.)

The twittersphere problem is that tweets can lead to the perception of bias on the part of the reader. At a time when the whole industry is on shaky ground -- and the public itself is starting to question what we do -- do we really need another reason for news-consumers to distrust the news? Ugh. bk

1 comment:

Terence Hofstad said...

Personally, I can see where both sides of this argument are coming from. On one hand, this reporter and all others do have their rights to free speech and to represent themselves. However, I think that the problem with the reporter using Twitter and other social networking services is exactly that: they are social. When someone uses Twitter or Facebook, they are intentionally trying to broadcast their thoughts out into the larger public sphere. As far as journalistic integrity goes, I don't think that as a reporter you can claim to remain unbiased when you are putting out public messages that might possibly reveal your personal feelings on a news story. What the reporter in question chose to do went beyond just using Twitter for his personal expression. I also feel that because these social networking services are relatively new, more traditional methods of media such as newspapers haven't had adequate time to understand all of the possibilities and pitfalls that sites like Twitter offer. Ultimately, I think that the paper's policy and the media's reaction to the story are just part of the growing pains of society acclimating itself to these new technologies.