Tim McGuire, who teaches journalism ethics and on the business of journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, recently asked some journalists about today’s business, compared to 30 years ago. Some excerpts:
One big change, for sure, is that no newspaper editor could say as you did to me in the mid 1990’s, “The truth is, it’s not really news until we (the big, major newspaper) print it.” That, of course, was before the blogosphere.
…As a whole, newspapering is still about finding stuff out and telling everybody else, and doing it ethically and in ways that are engaging and meaningful. …Newspapering is, and let’s hope will always be, about bringing the truth to light.
–Pam Fine, University of Kansas journalism professor
We have a far shorter time period to deliberate. Quite frankly, we sometimes are rendered moot by twitter and blogs that move at hyperspeed written by reporters that might or might not be accurate.
–Arnie Robbins, St. Louis Post Dispatch editor
I look at the sizes of the staffs at the papers where I worked and in some newsrooms, maybe the majority, you can hear the echoes of what used to be coming from the empty desks where journalists used to sit. And you simply cannot do more with less, and the push to do so only diminishes the quality of what gets done.
–Gregory Favre, Distinguished Fellow of the Poynter Institute
Increasingly, reporters rely too much on digital communication instead of one-on-one interviews and in the process miss the opportunities for follow-up or the emotional response that can be drawn from personal contact. Sources, especially the powerful ones who are advised by public relations consultants, have figured this out, along with the fact that shrinking staffs have left some reporters time-constrained. That’s allowed those sources more opportunities to try to shape the message. I’ve even spoken with some folks who have said their newspapers publish their press releases verbatim with no calls, no checking for accuracy.
The push to be first online hasn’t been totally a good thing; too many errors have been made and some of today’s journalists just shrug and say that’s part of today’s deal, unconcerned, apparently that the false facts, once reported, may live on forever in the Internet world. There has been a definite erosion in standards; accuracy, while still important, has given ground to immediacy. Journalists can tweet falsehoods and other will pick up the information, spreading it far and wide.
…In 1982, the separation between advertisers and editorial was more defined, almost absolute. Now that invisible wall is gone and while editors are still the guardians of standards, the protectors of the public’s right to know, they also are now marketers and collaborators with the advertising and circulation departments.
–Rick Rodriguez, faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
News organizations continue to perform the same fundamental functions — gathering, shaping and sharing news — but in increasingly and radically different ways. –—Len Downie, former editor, The Washington Post
[All emphases added]