Finishing up a repost of this series, just one more to go.
One of the largest keys to saving journalism will be simple to identify, but difficult to make happen: Lose the attitude.
Yes, what passes for news in The Media comes with loads of attitude. There is the open anti-American attitude that is so prevalent in the New York Times, the BBC, and a host of other outlets. There is the less obvious, but no less prevalent, attitude of holier than thou that comes from many in the profession. You see, they are the anointed ones to enlighten the masses, to guide them as betters should guide social and mental inferiors, the bearer of higher standards to which mere mortals (and bloggers) can not possible understand, much less aspire to. Like the Anointed One in Buffy, they forget that the inevitable name for such quickly becomes the annoying ones. There is also a cultural attitude of “we don’t make mistakes” that goes hand in hand with the-end-justifies-the-means approach towards biased news coverage.
The fact is, many in the media are so far involved in causes and politics, that they fail to comprehend that they are, deliberately or not, biasing their coverage. That they are also so far away from real journalism goes without saying, but they will not see that either.
Changing the attitudes will not be easy. The Journalism Purity League and the Journalist Citizen Councils are out in force already, and have been for some time. Even within professional organizations, these groups have fought long and hard against any encroachment into their turf. If you are not a full-time writer at a major daily paper or news magazine, you are lower than pond slime and should not be considered in any way, shape, or form a journalist.
Now, there is a conflict of interest here for me. I have a strong bias and it will show through. For several years, I have fought within one particular professional organization against some of the nonsense, and for highest ethics for all members. This has been met with strong opposition, including some rather interesting political maneuvers and flat out misinformation.
Within what has been going on in The Media and elsewhere, you should understand that there are those who do hold to high standards of reporting and ethics. There are others who wrap that around themselves to build themselves up for other reasons. These are often the people who feel that if you have every done anything other than their definition of “pure” journalism, then you can never be a journalist again. You are forever tainted and unable to join the exclusive self-anointed club at the peak or Olympus. My word to them continues to be “Get Over It.”
The fact is, I agree with some of the ideals espoused by the hard-liners. Conflicts of interest do need to be spelled out, but that needs to include political affiliations, organizational membership, and other things that just are not done by today’s so-called journalists. To do anything less is as dishonest as writing a story promoting a product that you have been paid to promote, and passing it off as an unbiased news article.
The fact is that many members of The Media are quite happy to see their views, their prejudices, and their ideals as “right” and everything else as “wrong.” The fact is that most members of The Media are a rather isolated bunch and most journalism schools do little or nothing to expose them to any outside ideas. Environmental reporting courses often have strong inputs from outfits like the Sierra Club, but limited influence from counter groups. Heaven’s forbid that you send them to a gun range or do anything like that. If fair and balanced is not in the classroom, how can it be in what comes out?
So, today’s suggestions are as follows:
1. Start by improving journalism schools and training, so that students are exposed to new ideas, concepts, and more in school. Fair and balanced needs to start there.
2. Make conflict of interest rules and ideals have relevance by including political and other sources of bias as much a part of them as financial and work history are supposed to be today.
3. Accept the fact that journalists are not elites, and that the club is open to anyone.
4. Start correcting mistakes online, and do so by updating rather than trying to put things down the memory hole.
5. Take the best of the blogs and use it in online sites by The Media
6. As consumers, keep on keeping them honest by pointing out errors, lies, bias, and more.
7. If a media outlet won’t admit to things, then blog about it and force them to honesty.
Now, some of these have come out before, but they are as relevant here as they were elsewhere. This has gone on long enough for now, so tomorrow should be a wrap-up piece. Maybe by next week, some of the guest blogs I have been soliciting will come through and can go up as well.