Journalism and its public forum role

I wanted to spend some time on journalism job to serve as a public forum. It’s animportant aspect in the profession today because of the many ways to contribute or create a public forum. The Internet has opened up many doors for journalists to engage with their readers, or viceversa. However, there is a big problem with this ease of being able to communicate with the public. That problem is the tendency for journalists to not verify all of their information.

Kovach and Rosentiel mention in the chapter that especially with the rise of the live interview on television, there’s an increasing tendency to rely on the interviewee to have correct information. This takes weight of the vetting process off of the journalist. But this is exactly what journalism cannot afford to let happen.

“As this new and more robust public forum gains momentum, the strength of what is replaced — the professional effort of verification — diminishes,” write Kovach and Rosentiel.

If we don’t have journalists vetting the necessary information, it can become too easy to spread rumors, such as what happened with Chris Matthews and the Clinton scandal mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. This is where the debate of what truth is in journalism comes in. As was discussed in the truth chapter, truth in journalism is more of a practical truth. It’s hard to define exactly what truth is, but we know it is something that is more like an onion — layer by layer (story by story) the truth is revealed.

I think an expansive public forum, like what we have today with blogs and comments, can only help reveal truth in journalism. But journalists must remember some of the principles of basic reporting with this new public forum. They must remember to verify all the information. Just because a source tells you the information in a live interview doesn’t make what they say necessarily true.

While we saw what can happen with providing a public forum without at least some type of guidelines — we get an argument culture. One that paints a black and white picture and polarizes any type of discussion. It seems that culture has certainly diminished in recent years. Now, I think the public forum role has been put back in the journalist’s seat a bit. People want a professional product and one that they can rely on. This can only happen if we put these people (journalists) in that position of trust and authority.

A newspaper has to reflect the ideas of a community, but also has to challenge some of those views — that’s what verification is. As the president of the Tribune Publishing Company, Jack Fuller, said: “A newspaper that fails to reflect its community deeply will not succeed. But a newspaper that does not challenge its community’s values and preconceptions will lose respect for failing to provide the honesty and leadership that newspapers are expected to offer.”

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