Sunday, April 4, 2010

Comprehensive & Proportional Journalism

"Journalists should keep the news comprehensive and in proportion," (Elements, 208). Journalism is mapmaking. We create a map for people to navigate society. Clearly, we cannot cover everything. But as our text indicates we, as citizens, need to ask these questions: "Can we see the whole community in the coverage? Do I see myself? Does the report include a fair mix of what most people would consider either interesting or significant," (209). As journalists, we pick what stories to cover. As producers, we format the newscasts. We are in charge of what the public sees.
When it comes to balancing hard news versus entertainment journalism I feel that there are many viewpoints. Personally, I am biased to hard news and feel that it's much more credible than shows such as Entertainment Tonight. Recently, I was asked if I would be interested in entertainment reporting and to be honest, I was a little offended. I guess it's just not my thing. I would rather report on a recent election or even some kind of human interest feature piece than tell viewers where Britney Spears' next tour stop is located.
Another topic that we discussed in class and that I found interesting was that of sensationalism. How can we resist sensationalism and keep the news in proportion? I think the answer lies in finding a balance. I don't think we chould isolate the journalist from reality - but we should educate with a better understanding. The topic of Michael Jackson's death coverage was a hot topic in class. It was compared to the 9/11 tragedy and how CNN showed footage for weeks. Personally, I don't think the two are comparable. I was in London on a study abroad this past summer when Michael Jackson died. The next day The Evening Standard, a London newspaper, had headlines "London Blamed for Jackson's Death" on the front page. London was his first stop on his new tour and his training was thought to do him in. Clearly, the city of London did not kill Jackson. The headline was ridiculous. But this sensationalism sells newspapers. However, The National Enquirer, a notorious sensationalist publication, is now up for a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage on the John Edwards scandal. So, is the National Enquirer credible? Is the Pulitzer Prize credible? (Thank-you Josh Guest for your comment in class!)
Another issue we talked about in class is that of research. Research helps journalists make judgment but it doesn't replace their judgment. It's a helpful tool. Focus groups are an inexpensive form of market research. But there are some problems with focus groups. They are not scientific, nor objective. They are hard to replicate - the discussion is different every time. And they're easily swayed by a single member of the group or unintentionally by the focus group leader. Bottom line: we need to stop approaching viewers as customers, but as citizens.

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