Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Trained Journalists"

Listening to On The Media from this week, co-host Bob Garfield makes this passing comment about why one the show's producers, a Libyan native, is a OTM source rather than participant this week:

Journalists are, of course, trained never to become part of the story.

Then Bob, what are we to make of stories ranging from Doug Gottlieb's comments regarding the fate of Arkansas men's basketball coach? Or of Tom Bowles' firing after clapping at the Daytona 500? Or virtually any sports reporter who also maintains new media tools like a Twitter feed or a separate blog or website about the subject they cover?

I applaud what Bob is saying. Journalists should be neutral observers, but is that really possible? And if so, was that only so in a day gone by?

Being part of the story is the essence -- good, bad or otherwise -- in the expanding social media world. The credibility of the source is often vetted by what we know of it and how much it may or may not be vested in the story.

Thus, going back to the On The Media piece, one of the items quickly pointed out is the lack of viable third-party confirmation of the reports coming from Libya. The government is still cracking down and not allowing traditional journalists in to report. The dissidents have clear motivation to be as pessimistic as possible.

So, to use a story very close to home, if a university person counters Gottlieb, who do you believe? The journalist -- who by putting it out was in these days of self-promotion not only reporting but promoting that he and his organization were first -- or the official source? The truth is the truth won't be known for some time.

Meanwhile, are Gottlieb and Bowles not good "trained journalists"? I have no answer for that, nor would I assume one for Garfield. What I will venture is that the hard and fast rules that once governed not being part of the story are changing.

How do we know what is right? It's up to you, gentle reader, to decide.

Ah yes, the good news is you can have all the news you could possibly want. The bad news is . . . you've got more news than you can digest.

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