Friday’s Gallup poll showing that 60% of Americans don’t trust the media got me thinking.
The reprehensible dialogue of two “reporters” caught plotting Mitt Romney’s demise on open mic exemplifies the toxic media climate any Republican candidate faces, especially anyone opposing Barack Obama, the media’s darling.
Here are for your review precepts of the Fifties Journalism standards which I was taught as an undergrad in the University of Illinois’s School of Journalism. Perhaps, a review of what passed for journalism back then can put into perspective what Republican candidates, and especially Conservatives, must overcome to be elected now.
The overarching rule was “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword.” I still can remember my news reporting professor holding up his pen to the class to caution us to use wisely the lethal weapon we soon would own! Always tell the truth, he said. Close to this rule was never editorialize in news stories. Advocating an agenda for certain candidates or policies was considered so offensive that it ranked up there along with grammatical errors for bringing down the wrath of an “F” grade on us would-be cub reporters! Writing the inverted pyramid news story involved getting the five “Ws” up early in the story lead, namely Who, What, When, Where, Why, and even How if possible. We were taught to write clearly and objectively and to give the reader what was needed to make informed opinions and correct decisions. No shading of facts was allowed! The term “Political Correctness” was not needed back then.
More rules included never getting too close to your subjects and never ignoring rumors. “There’s truth in every rumor. Keep digging,” I remember being told. Always source and attribute; be careful how you use your pen because “You can kill a reputation or a life with it” were ethical teachings we were told.
“Be objective” was a principle of journalism that today is so ignored that I feel legal action will be the only device that can be used to require our liberal media from attacking the GOP. How can we trust a profession today that purportedly is 90% liberal, Democrat Party in political persuasion?
Also, we were warned: “When in doubt, don’t”— in other words, avoid running with a story until you are certain of its facts. Avoiding certain Red Flag words, reviewing what we had written, and “Nothing can replace being there, seeing for yourself, asking questions at the scene,” were drummed into us.
Learning how to interview and how to be gracious, especially at crime and accident scenes was very important to avoid hijacking witnesses who may not be in the best of positions to speak honestly or without emotion just seems to me to be basic human kindness. But how much fairness do we see in today’s boiling media caldron? “Never betray or reveal a source,” was a steadfast rule of course, as the First Amendment protection every journalist still touts. But rubbing elbows with your movers and shakers at in crowd cocktail parties may beg some questions.
We had to take courses in ethics, and we had to discuss and defend positions we took. Just how many ethical examples of principled reporting do we notice today? I have no respect for reporters or their editors or producers who order dumpster diving into the Palin family history or who now are going to Mexico to dig up dirt on ancient Romney family ancestors just to smear another GOP candidate who opposes Barack Obama! Refusing to vet Obama while at the same time lacerating Romney is both despicable and unprincipled! Having respect was a reporter’s biggest cachet back in the day.
Photo credit: wstera2 (Creative Commons)
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