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Understanding a product revisited

This article was been published more than 6months ago. The information contained herein may be outdated.

I would like to revisit my thoughts on understanding the product of news outlets. Some time ago, an acquaintance, who works for a news outlet posted a picture of a newspaper article to his Facebook feed, stating that “…this is journalism. You can’t get it on social media – or on blogs for that matter. Journalism at its best is both critical and supportive of society at the same time…”

He went on to say that there is certainly a lot of bad journalism, before pointing out that “…propagandists prefer using social media, their own websites and blogs, and actively avoid journalists. This makes me think ‘surely, that’s not because FB, Twitter and Snap will never shine a critical light against anything at all’?”

He is right, of course; avoiding critical outlets has a certain value, whether you preach hate in the name of whatever religion you are perverting, lies about vaccines, or conspiracy theories, for that matter. He is also, however, very wrong, and in the most arrogant way conceivable; bloggers can – and at times do – run circles around journalists.

The problem has two sides. On the one hand, the good journalism is drowned in the enormous numbers of regurgitations and news agency-repetitions, with nothing that even resembles critical thinking. On the other hand, there are a number of bloggers who write good, thoughtful, and tightly edited commentaries. To reject someone because they publish on a channel that they control is as unreasonable as blindly accepting what’s reported by news outlets, just because “it said so in the news”. The same can be said of those who decry bloggers writing under pseudonym, simply because of the pseudonym.

When journalists are given free reign to do their jobs properly, the result is more often than not good, solid journalistic craft. There are many examples of this. The problem is that the vast majority of journalists either seem not to be given such leeway, or simply don’t seem to care. Sure, blogs may not provide journalism in the truest sense of the word, but they aren’t far off the mark. The good examples are miles and miles ahead of most journalists in being open about their sources. The good bloggers do not say “read what I write, and accept it whole cloth”; they say “here’s what I write, and here are my sources – feel free to subject it to scrutiny”.

There is a reason why bloggers like Gunnar Tjomlid and Doremus Schafer exist, and they are most definitely needed. Most of all, what I miss is a sense of humility. Humility for the fact that you don’t have to be a journalist to deliver a quality product, and humility for the fact that the title “journalist” is no guarantee for a quality product.

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