Journalism: Whom do you trust? - New York News

Journalism: Whom do you trust?

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LANSING, Mich. (WJBK) -

Poor Uncle Walter must be spinning in his grave. Walter Cronkite was once hailed as the Most Trusted Man in America. Journalist are now held in low regard; right down there with lawyers and business executives.

The Pew Research folks asked 4,000 adults to list the professions that "contribute a lot to society's well-being" and proved the point.

Right off the bat, a journalist would argue they are not on a mission of "well-being."  Yes, by informing the public about politics and government, there is some benefit to the  Democracy.  But very few in this biz frame their stories with the intent of improving anything.

Fact is reporters are not on anybodies side. Correspondents are disinterested third party observers and not prone to advance any cause.

It's like being an umpire.  You call them as you see them, try really hard to get it right and you don't walk on the field hoping to win a popularity contest.

If you want to be popular do something else, because by the very nature of this biz, you will write something that somebody will not like and to play to the grandstand means you might leave out some "facts" that could produce cat-calls instead.

So what gives?

First there is the "shoot the messenger" syndrome.  If you read or watch day after day most of the stuff you consume is bad news and why wouldn't you come to dislike the person who brings it to you?

Second and increasingly we shop for news that reflects our personal beliefs so when you run across someone who doesn't report the news as you "believe it to be true," you naturally won't like them.

Thirdly, the media is making more mistakes.  The 24-7 news cycle places the emphasis on getting it first and worrying about the fact-checking later on. It use to be:  Get it right and then get it first.

Because of cut backs in the newsroom, the two or three sets of eyes that would review a story before it was published are reduced to two eyes, if that.  That leads to more mistakes; more mistakes feeds the mistrust from the public and less credibility for those reporting the news.

Some in the media believe they are infallible. They never admit a mistake or if they do it is buried in the obit section. It's an ugly double standard.  If the media holds officials to a high standard, it should also apply to the reporters who cover them.

The nature of news has also changed and the advent of the Internet has not helped either.  Years ago when a politician did something "after hours," unless the behavior violated the public trust, it was not reported.  Talk to the folks who covered President John F.Kennedy.  Those days are long gone. The post-Kennedy media is more than eager to quench the solacitious thirst of the public because it fattens the bottom line.

And because of the Internet, anybody can be a "journalist" without adhering to any of the industry standards i.e. double check your sources, get all sides of the story and try to find the truth as it is, not as you would like it to be.

The harsh reality is your local blogger, and God bless them for being involved, is not the same as a seasoned reporter, but the consumer treats them all the same and the sins of one is superimposed on the other.

Hence there is no way journalists can compete with doctors, the military, scientists and engineers who rank very high on the contributing to the well being of society scale.  Nor should they compete. To do so undermines the media goal of sharing information and you do with it what you please…including wrapping fish in it.

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