Thursday, February 25, 2010

Independence & Journalism

What is opinion’s role in journalism? I found a website that gives statistics that are somewhat interesting. This stats measure the extent to which stories contained opinion from the journalists themselves in ways that they do not attribute to any source or other reporting.
For the most part, journalists on the network evening news kept themselves out of their reporting. The vast majority stories (83%) did not contain any direct opinion from journalists.

Morning news, despite its heavy emphasis on interviewing, contained even less journalistic opinion (just 11% of stories).

As we discussed in class, journalists must maintain an independence from those they cover. But how does a journalist keep an independence from those they cover? How can someone who's partial be objective? Some suggestions mentioned in the presentation were accuracy, verification, serving the larger public interest, and possessing a desire to inform. Journalistic independence is keeping one's interests and opinions out of the lives and viewpoints of those they are reporting on. It is not getting involved in different events and the lives of those you are covering. For example, the Society of Professional Journalists slammed NBC for getting involved with the David Goldman story and chartering a flight to get him and his 9-year-old son home from Brazil. In this article, NBC is criticized for helping Goldman and then reporting his story. Goldman was interviewed on the flight home. And shortly after their return he was interviewed on the Today Show and was part of a two-hour Dateline special.
Other research articles that I have found suggest that journalist independence requires that codes of ethics or codes of conduct must be drawn up by the professionals themselves.

William Peter Hamilton, one of the first men to hold the job of editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, wrote, "Don't believe the man who tells you there are two sides to every question. There is only one side to the truth." This Wall Street Journal article explains the relation of truth and journalism further.

Also, I completely agree with the statement, "Anyone can be a journalist, but not everyone is." Anyone can really report on stories...but few choose to take an objective stance. Another quote I really liked, "Comment is free, but facts are sacred," by C.P. Scott. Again, anyone can state how they are feeling, but it takes work to find the facts.
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