EJ Chapt. 11
Here we are. The final blog essay. The final EJ chapter. The Final Countdown. Who ever thought we would make it this far? Well, I suppose we all probably did, but I digress.
This chapter finally took a real, hard look at the role of citizens in modern journalism. It starts the discussion with crowdsourcing, the outsourcing of certain tasks to essentially anyone in the world who is up to the task, usually via the Internet. Say what you will about citizen journalism in general, but I think crowdsourcing, when used correctly, is definitely a good thing for journalism. Think of any big event in the 20th century, and imagine what it would have been like with crowdsourcing. Tweets of reactions to King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as it happened. Vine videos of Woodstock antics. You may disagree, but I think it would have changed the way we remember these events.
The authors touch on the benefits that members of the community can bring to journalists in a sort of symbiotic relationship. They state “the community brings a diversity of viewpoints, subject expertise, and real-life experience to the news that journalism alone cannot match.” This is a good perspective on the basic role of citizens in journalism. I feel like, generally, when you think of citizens in regards to journalism, you just think the average person on the street. But the cancer researcher or the political analyst should be considered just as much a citizen as anyone else. Their expertise does not separate them from their community.
We eventually get to the “Citizen’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” How helpful this is to non-journalist citizens in a book read almost exclusively by journalism students, I do not know. Nevertheless, as the authors say, we as journalists are citizens as well. The “Bill” basically states each right or responsibility as it relates to an element from previous chapters, but it leaves out verification and conscience. The one right that seems to be violated most is the citizen’s right to get proportional, engaging coverage of major news from journalists. The fault for this violation shouldn’t be placed all on the journalists, though, since it raises the question of how much is a result of citizens’ violating their responsibility to seek out the “critical, challenging information.” This dichotomy speaks to the necessity of having guidelines for both the journalists who produce news and the citizens who consume it.
In the end, the authors take a stand for the rights of citizens, even if it means negative consequences for journalists. If citizens rights are violated and their concerns go unaddressed, they say, the citizens should do everything in their power to make themselves heard, including canceling subscriptions and publicly criticizing news outlets. In the precarious economic environment of modern journalism, it’s a testament to their devotion to the core principles of journalism that they would call for such things if journalists are not fulfilling their roles. I can respect that.
DQ: Did the authors do an adequate job of summarizing the elements of our profession? Was there anything they omitted or over-emphasized?
This was just begging to be used in a blog post: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/04/11/marathon-bombing-survivor-walks-off-set-of-meet-the-press/. Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost a foot in last year’s Boston Marathon Bombing, walked out on an episode of “Meet the Press” when she learned the names of the bombers would be said. On the one hand, I can definitely see why she would be upset if they said they wouldn’t say it. NBC should have never made that promise. However, I think it’s unreasonable to expect the subject of the bombers not to come up in a serious discussion of the tragedy. I’m all for focusing on the victims, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that there were real people behind the bombing, one of whom is still alive to be held responsible for the act. As Hermione said, “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”
Well, I would say it’s been fun, but then I would be violating my journalistic responsibility to the truth. Ethics aren’t supposed to be fun though. They are supposed to be hard. But, as unenjoyable as it may be to think about them, they are absolutely necessary for a journalist. Nothing in life is certain except for death, taxes and the fact that MH370 is on CNN.com’s front page at any given moment. Ethics is how we as humans deal with these gray areas. When the big dilemmas come up, it’s important to have a solid system of ethics to help you through them in journalism, and in life.
So, do I feel that I have such a solid system in place, now that this class is almost finished? Not exactly. It’s not the fault of the books (though I’ve had my criticisms), the class structure, or you, Dr. Rogers. While this class was a good starting point, I don’t think we can fully develop journalistic ethics until we are out in the field, continuously experiencing dilemmas like the ones discussed in class for ourselves. What this class did well was to give us the basic tools and knowledge to start with.
-Jovahn Huertas, firstname.lastname@example.org