Oh dear. A long pensive piece about the nature of the press reduced to sound bite. That because I don’t regard journalism as “research” or, as my initial concern, “academic research” I somehow don’t think pieces should be checked.
Funny in one sense, in that it reveals a capacity for gross simplification of the sort that would otherwise excite howls of rage if a journo did it. But key, too, since it goes to the heart of the journalistic dilemma.
That is hinted at by the excellent comment on the last piece on this topic from fishwife. I don’t quite agree with their distinction between the WORDS “journalist” and “reporter” …but I get and agree with the principle.
There should be a complete separation of story and story teller. Whether that actually makes for an unbiased press is another issue. But the idea is sound.
However. The essence of this approach contains an implication at odds with a second demand by many:that the reporter “research” their subject. Why?
Research leads to opinion-forming. Leads, in effect, to the destruction of the very neutrality otherwise prized. Because it changes the relationship between author and story.
Difficult. And please note that what is not being argued here is FOR some general ignorance on part of writer. When it comes to writing…before writing…i’d expect the humblest journo to have done their legwork. In spades.
I just don’t think they should be doing it to academic standard.
Because, too, there is a second, mostly unstated presumption behind that argument. Sarah Brown highlighted it recently, complaining of a confected story she was dragged into.
The writer had a set of RSPCA claims about snakes as pets. These they put to Sarah seeking counter-claim. The story is pure confection: one body puts a view, another rejects it. The form, structure, nature of such pieces is well known.
Sarah has a very valid point.
There’s a case for saying the piece shouldn’t be run. Or the journo should have researched the topic and simply delivered an (academic) verdict on the issue.
Hmmm. But see what we did there? We turned two conflicting views into researched monolithic opinion. Maybe the RIGHT opinion. But along the way, we discarded conflict. We effectively elided two genuinely opposed views into a single conclusion.
That’s the danger. The BIG danger here.
Journalism isn’t academic research – and that’s both its strength and weakness.
It’s also, I repeat, why I asked the very first question. Given what it IS, what I think it must be to fulfil expectations of neutrality…can society ever really live comfortably with it?