community relations, Facebook, investors, journalism standards, journalistic ethics, journalists, local news., local tv news, media companies, media organizations, Newspapers, PR, Public Relations, reporters, Standards
News organizations have not evolved as much as they have devolved over the last sixty years. Journalism ethics have suffered the greatest. The priority in news organizations has shifted from high journalistic standards to gaining market share. The news anchor or primary news host now use the reporter as hu’s* news source.
How Did We Get Here?
Originally, the news reporter job was to gather the facts, confirm the facts, and organize the facts into a story. The myth of Superman’s girlfriend getting the scoop and landing a Page One, Pulitzer Prize article wasn’t how it really happened.
Good journalism was the verification of the facts, careful research, and exposing lies. In the end, the reporter’s name was the byline, not the storyline. Reporters needed the attention to detail of an accountant, the interrogation skill of a great attorney, the ethics of a great judge, and the knowledge of a college professor, in addition to the ability to write a compelling story.
But when investors began buying up news organizations, money became the priority over journalism standards. Advancement was based who could attract a bigger audience. Women were brought into the newsroom, but the motivation was ratings, not equality. Money flowed to those that could produce shock and awe. The young, idealistic journalism graduate discovered that a reporter was underpaid, overworked, and disrespected.
And while the journalism standards fell, the news source wall went up. Organizations created ‘public relations’ experts to ‘control the message.’ Now a reporter is the person between the news organization looking for ratings and the news source that wants to be a shining star.
Corporate Public Relations Mastery of Orwellian Doublespeak
Not every company believes in lying to the public, but it does seem the bigger they are, the less responsive they are willing to be. The most recent major incident is Facebook’s initial response to the data of 50 million users being collected by conservatives connected to the Donald Trump campaign.
After the story broke on Saturday 17 March, Facebook ran silent for days before issuing any response. Journalists that attempted to obtain information and/or a response were ignored. Major headlines were running about the data breach and Facebook was on lockdown.
Corporate PR has made the company the least likely source of accurate, reliable, and/or truthful information. So now the reporter digs up whatever information they can and becomes the ‘expert.’ The news anchor often interviews the reporter as the sole news source because no one else will talk.
The problem with this is that the reporter can’t speak with authority. They are not privy to the inside information so they can only offer hu’s opinion. That changes journalism into gossip and guessing. No one can be sure of anything because no one knows the truth. That leaves it up to the individual to accept what they want to hear and reject what they don’t want to hear. That is never good for a democracy.
[*Hu’s is a gender neutral pronoun for his or her.]