"Infotainment not information"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unforeseen news stories are quite unanimously some of the most difficult stories on which to report. Even if a reporter follows a checklist similar to the one laid out in Inside Reporting for covering disasters, there is still so much uncertainty (coupled with so many variables) that make it one of the most difficult tasks a reporter may ever have to endure. The horror of 9/11 was not an exception. On the anniversary of that tragic day, we are once again bombarded with the heartfelt remembrances from victims' loved ones, photos of the devastation and forced to relive the nightmare that was that fateful day. And every piece of this media has been mindfully and meticulously chosen for circulation.

The substance and quantity of what was selected to be publicized, particularly immediately following 9/11, is what incited one writer to begin examining the journalistic choices after that tragedy. Andria Dunkin, a reporter for The Newark Metro, explains some of her findings in her Review Essay: Journalism After 9/11. She states in the article that journalism helped create a strong sense of community after 9/11, but also took advantage of the nation's need for healing after the events of that day.

Infotainment is what was being provided to the American people not information, according to Dunkin. She raises a very valid point, by in a way asking the question, where was the in-depth reporting? The events of that September day caused some of the greatest pain and suffering this country has ever experienced, but it was caused by terrorists attacking our country, and that should have been more closely examined in the reporting.

After reading this article, I feel as if the media was slightly pandering in their coverage of 9/11, and continued to re-play the same heart-breaking stories over and over to keep the public watching. There was a very serious threat looming over America with Al-Qaeda. However, there was not enough information being released about them, which kept people living in an even greater state of constant fear. If it is the media's job to report the stories, then they must report it all. Constant airing or multiple articles on the same topic do not resonate with most as responsible and ethical reporting. The ultimate goal of journalism should be reporting truth, the whole truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be. If it is not the end goal, then what can be learned when we look back on history and events as unfortunate and unspeakable as those of September 11th?


Non-journalists going journalist.

To be or not to be...a journalistic company? A recent article posed this question to some of the largest corporations in the world. Sam Diaz, a technology and business blogger, begun to explore the role and responsibility that that these Internet companies now hold in our society in one of his latest posts.

The decision of being a committed journalistic resource has began to take on greater importance because of the increasing role in daily life that these companies now hold. Diaz cites specifically Facebook, Google and twitter when he mentions journalistic credibility and responsibility. It is an extremely important matter to examine when so many use these outlets to facilitate their hunger for news.

Each of these corporations have their own ranking and ratings systems that allow users to consume and comment on material that is most important to them, and also what has received the most attention. It is the latter, however, that leads to the issue of when do these social media sites become more than just a facilitator of thoughts? They are now contributing to the news of the world, and although some say they are simply displaying it, others are willing to accept the challenge to do so with more of a quality, journalistic approach.

Diaz ends his article by asking the reader if these companies should strive to do more to preserve journalist standards, or if it even matters? Simply from the few short weeks I have had in my reporting class, I can answer with a resounding yes. They should do all they can to protect the integrity of the information their sites are contributing to news consumption everyday to help the populations of the world stay involved and connected. Another yes to the second question of if it matters. It is similar to the social responsibility we all have to own each day, and these are standards that must be set in place in order to have any chance of complying to them every day.


Off the Record - Does Such a Thing Exist?

There are many varied interpretations of the journalistic phrase "off the record". To some it means the comments can be used as long as there is no attribution. To some it means that anything said can only be used as indirect background information, without attribution or direct quotation. And still to others it means anything said during an interview is unable to be used in any form whatsoever.

With the variety of definitions, how can anyone ever be certain what a source means when they want to be interviewed "off the record"? A good practice is suggested on JournoWorld, which states:

if there is any doubt at all about the status of a conversation then you should clarify it.Link
Jamie McIntyre, a former senior pentagon correspondent for CNN, wrote that he often begun off-the-record dinners in the pentagon in the same manner. "Just to be clear and so there is no misunderstanding," he would proclaim in a somber voice, "when we say off the record, we mean not for reporting in any form, (pause for effect).. unless it's REALLY, REALLY good."

That may seem like a humorous comment, but if you really look at it he has a point. Anything that is said off the record can not be used, but it can be confirmed from other sources later who may be willing to go on the record. Anything being said should, in reality, be something that is willing to be printed and attributed. Sooner or later it is bound to come back at you anyway.

McIntyre goes into a bit more analysis on the idea of off the record in an article on the American Journalism Review.

There is even more reason to question whether or not there can be a conversation that is off the record any longer. An article on the Online Journalism Review mentions how, in 2008, a writer for the Huffington Post wrote about a comment that Barack Obama made during a gathering where journalists were not allowed. This writer was present as a campaign supporter, and did what any good blogger or tweeter would do in today's world: report about the controversial comment made.

That was three years ago and even then the question came up about citizen journalism taking over things. If I overhear something that is being said between two people who are "off the record", is it wrong for me to blog or tweet about it? No, I don't think so, because I was not part of that agreement.

And in a world where everything can be found with ease, an eavesdropped comment can pop up within minutes. That could spread to dozens of places within half an hour. How can you have damage control for that? The only viable solution: don't go "off the record" because such a thing is a notion of the past.


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