I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make a living in the fields of broadcasting/journalism for 42 years. It has been an enjoyable career of choice, something I actually majored in — and minored in, for that matter — in college.
But the times are changing and, to be real straight up with you, I’m not changing with the times as gracefully as I’d like to.
I started on an old Royal typewriter. Now I’m using my right index finger to tap into a telephone/computer in my recliner at 3:30 in the morning. (This is my explanation for typos. They are typos, not misspellings.)
I have always been a news junkie, but when I was a kid there was just a half hour local nightly news show, followed by a half hour network news show. In the morning back then, it was just The Today Show.
There was no two and a half hour local morning news magazine before the network news where you watch the anchors read the same six stories each half hour five times over in the morning.
Remember, young’uns, I’m talking pre-CNN or Fox days when there wasn’t a 24-hour news ad nauseum in your face option.
Perhaps I was young and naive, but news back then seemed to me to be news of the day. Those were the days when Walter Cronkite was widely regarded as the most trusted man in America. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were a close second.
Here’s where I make the dramatic plea for your response. Who do you trust to deliver the news today? Do you think anyone out there is an unbiased journalist reporting nothing but the facts and not trying to goad someone into contradicting someone else to generate a controversy?
Please email me your responses. That’s email@example.com and, remember, your comments are subject to appearance in a future column so I need a name.
What I’m beating around the bush about is that so much of the national media news today is “agenda” or “spin” driven. A growing angst over media bias has trickled down to the local level.
I’ve written before that you must understand everyone in this industry has an opinion. But it is our job, and responsibility, to do our best not to let that opinion, or agenda, show through in reporting of the facts.
Corporate opinion should be relegated solely to editorial pages. When was the last time you actually saw a TV station or network manager identify something as editorial content?
Let me expand for just a second about facts.
I hearken back to the Reagan days when one of the president’s mantras was “Trust but verify.” I can’t tell you how often I get asked about this or that, because someone saw a post on social media, and they wonder why it hasn’t been in the newspaper. We are responsible for the accuracy of the material we report in a news story. People on Facebook and Twitter ramble on about whatever they want to.
Do we get things right 100% of the time? Unfortunately no, but it’s not from a lack of effort. We do occasionally get bad information that, for one reason or another, could not be verified.
One of the best, and worst, inventions ever is caller ID. There are a lot of people who, when they see the media is calling, they will let it go straight to voice mail. If somebody does not return a phone call, their information cannot be added to the “facts” that are otherwise available.
I attribute that to the “gotcha” reporting that is going on nationally with the alphabet television networks. We do not practice that kind of journalism.
This is why many of my news stories are heavy with direct quotations from people. If it’s not true, it’s that person who said it, not me! Do I have a responsibility to verify things people say? Yes, I think you have the right to expect that. To every extent possible.
I will tell you that I would not quote someone saying something that I know is a complete falsehood. Do I verify everything everybody tells me in a given day, no there’s not enough time in the day for that. If I have a real question with what someone is saying, I’ll hold off on the story.
It’s more important to get information correct than it is to be first. I’d like to be first with everything. That’s why it’s called news and not history, but regrettably that’s not always possible considering deadlines.
With so many people, particularly younger folks, getting their “news” from places like Facebook and Twitter, it really makes me want to know if they have any idea what the source of their information really is. If it is something that somebody “shared” with somebody else, who shared it from somebody else? Do they, do you, know what the source of your information is? We call that attribution.
We are required to let you know where our information comes from. I can think of maybe two times in my 11 years at the RN-T when I’ve been able to keep a significant source anonymous. It’s not like the TV news guys who are blurring the face of every Dick and Jane who want to whine and complain about something without letting anybody know who they are.
I’ve just about turned TV news off and when that goes, cable is next.