Journalists today: how would you grade them?

For years journalists have received mixed reviews.
How do you feel about the job they are doing? Are they ethical? Fair? Accurate?

Media mantras like “If it bleeds it leads” and “Cry and you’ll get on camera,” do much to paint the journalist as unethical and obnoxious. In their rush to be first, news outlets are constantly correcting earlier reports. Top reporters Jayson Blair (NY Times), Stephen Glass (The New Republic) and countless others have been caught plagiarizing. Because of these and other breaches of trust, Columbia Journalism Review once reported that people believe that about half of what they read in the press is misleading or inaccurate.

When the founding father’s penned the first amendment to the US Constitution, they gave enormous power to the press to be purveyors of truth. In recent years, the press has been run less by purveyors of truth than by big businessmen. Ted Turner, the founder of the first 24-hours news channel CNN has defined news as “$”. He said if anyone tells you differently they’re lying. He added that if they don’t sell the news, there’s no audience; without an audience, the media out of a job.

There’s an unspoken agreement between the reporter and the reader. The reader agrees to believe the reporter (without this trust there’s no reason to read), and the reporter agrees to be accurate, objective, balanced and fair. One final observation, if a doctor breaks her Hippocratic Oath she will lose her liscence; If a lawyer breaks his client-attorney confidentiality, he will be disbarred; if a journalist lies to get a story he just might win the Pulitzer Prize.

I know there are plenty of good, careful, ethical journalists out there. The problem is with the Media Moguls who insist on obscene profits. I’d love your feedback on this.
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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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6 Responses to Journalists today: how would you grade them?

  1. Erik Johnels says:

    Thank you!

    “if a journalist lies to get a story he just might win the Pulitzer Prize.”

    This is unfortunately the truth of the day. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a journalist more than 2 months out of school that has an intact perspective.

  2. Pentad says:

    I love topics like this, and I completely agree with your take, and angle. I remember taking a course in college years ago (overseas) about ‘Power, and the Media’. Fascinating stuff. I guess ‘misuse of power’ is more accurate.

    I think that the general public still has expectations of a higher standard, than that which is practiced. I have often times wondered if journalists feel pressed between a rock, and a hard spot. As a Registered Nurse, there were many times we felt the burdens of ethical dilemma. In other words, torn between our oath, and the finances of our employers.

  3. Thanks to you both. I value your feedback.

  4. Lenka Bliss says:

    Great post. You’re so right. I am fed up with all news and journalists that see “$” in their stories. I don’t usually watch TV or read press much but now my brother is at home and he has to be updated about everything. But what I get whole day from news reporting chanels is 10% of real issues (like politics, current news, or analysis) and 90% of murders, catastrophes and wars.
    The sickest example that I observed is the story of Fritzl who abused his daughter for 24 years. It’s such a tragic story and everybody is just so interested, moreover media. To get the latest pictures of anything, having interviews with neighbors (Who are being paid enormous money because of such tragedy)… I even heard that people are taking pics of themselves in front of the house. It was impossible to escape this news and I wish I had escaped.

    Something with perception of journalism is distorted. I guess they all have great teachers like you but then money change their perception and they just think it’s normal this way for the rest of our lives.

    But you’re right that there are still some good ethical journalists, alas I suppose they struggle to be heard by masses.

  5. tcip says:

    This is why the Internet is so cool. We don’t have to rely on the “Big $” media outlets for information. It’s websites like this one that bring a certain perspective to the world out there. Trust in the journalist is gained over time and reputation is everything.

  6. Paul says:

    I agree with Tcip. Power to the new media!

    The old guard who refuse to embrace the changing times will die a slow death as their ivory towers crumble. CBS is discussing eliminating their evening news program altogether (after Katie is finished). 30 years ago, Walter Cronkite was the voice of God. The times, they are a changin’

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