“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies.” | Kovach and Rosenstiel
All about the art of journalism, this week’s reading challenged me to higher standards as a writer. Chapter Four, “Journalism of Verification” from Kovach and Rosenstiel’s book The Elements of Journalism drew my focus to truth in writing and how best to verify that our information is reliable. Rettburg’s book, Blogging, made a second appearance but this time focusing on Chapter Four, “Citizen Journalists?”
Kovach and Rosenstiel’s chapter was centered on the idea that verification, above all else, shaped notable journalism. If there is no system in place to validate our claims, there is no way to know if the information communicated is truth in its purest form, or rather a mode of trickery or deception. “Journalism alone is focused first on getting what happened down right” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 71). Journalism is about what happened. Not how the journalist perceived what happened, or the audience, etc. This means simply the facts and nothing else. But our American school of journalism seems to have gotten off track. We seem to have forgotten the importance of verification and rather include much more opinion and analysis of our own.
The core set of values for journalism that Kovach and Rosenstiel introduce seem to be all-encompassing and essential to writers in any setting, not solely journalism. The principles they suggest are:
- Never add anything that was not there.
- Never deceive the audience.
- Be transparent as possible about your methods and motives.
- Rely on your own original reporting.
- Exercise humility.
If we, as writers and thinkers and journalists and speakers and bloggers and teachers and friends and students and humans, learn to let these 5 values define the way we write, and even speak, the world we live in would look very different. So much tension and hurt and “drama” in our society today is caused by a lack of these things—adding falsities to stories, deceiving our audience, being guarded or devious in our methods and motives, relying on others’ reporting, living in pride rather than humility.
These 5 core values that Kovach and Rosenstiel should transform the way we think about sharing information. Whether in a blog post or a Tweet, I vow to make sure these principles frame the way I write.
Rettburg’s chapter on “Citizen Journalists?” revealed the adjustment mainstream media has to make to allow the space for blogs. How will these two interact or overlap? “Freedom of press is guaranteed only to those who own one” (Liebling 1960). The media and the spread of information used to be limited to those who had a platform or an outlet in their profession. Your everyday, average mom or doctor or teacher or artist had no say in the public sphere of media. But blogs have provided a way to publish and distribute that is cheap and relatively simple enough for non-professionals to have a voice. “Today, anybody can own a press. Anybody can be the media” (Rettburg, 108). Rettburg acknowledges the ever-changing world in which we live and the effect it is having on journalism.
Is blogging journalism? Most bloggers would not consider themselves journalists, but most citizens tend to trust blogs more so than official news media outlets. Why is this? People see big news corporations like CNN or New York Times as giant and disconnected from human life. But, a blogger who may share common interests, is transparent, and builds trust, is more likely to connect with the reader.
Bloggers are more commonly trusted to bring direct communication with no hidden agenda or skewed motives. Whereas journalists may be seen to be looking in from the outside, often bloggers are on the inside, experiencing the news firsthand, like Salam Pax. Pax was a citizen in Baghdad, writing about the struggles and pain of life in Irag during the war. He was honest and transparent, not sparing the public of the gory details or the harsh truth. But people love this kind of news. The far away, disconnected stories are given a face, a name, a family. The words move us to action because we begin to feel their pain, as if it was our own.
“What appears to be clear, however, is that blogs need mainstream media, and that, today, the mainstream media also need blogs” (Rettburg, 110).
Blogs enable. Blogs inspire. Blogs spread. Blogs unite. Blogs connect. Blogs empower.