Will Responsible Journalism Return? July 28, 2010Posted by Dwight Furrow in politics.
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The mainstream media has been inept and quite frankly irresponsible in its reporting on rightwing shenanigans. But there is evidence they are beginning to get a clue.
Here is Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin, surely a representative of the mainstream media, taking issue with the reporting on the Shirley Sherrod matter:
…The Sherrod story is a reminder — much like the 2004 assault on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny.
Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.
So the news-and-information conveyor belt moves stories like the Sherrod case from Point A to Point Z without any of the standards or norms of traditional journalism, not only resulting in grievous harm to the apparently blameless, such as Sherrod, but also crowding out news about virtually anything else.
Political discourse in this country will not improve until responsible members of the media push back against the corporate shills who occupy editors’ desks and regain their commitment to telling the truth. Maybe Halperin’s piece is evidence of a nascent return to responsible journalism.
For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com
Media Misrepresenting Science April 18, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Ethics, Science.
Tags: journalism, journalism ethics, Media
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Here is an interesting assessment by Ars Technica of two recent science stories that received lots of attention in the press but were seriously distorted by the press reports.
One study was about the alleged correlation between the use of Facebook and lower grades. The other study was about the effect of new communications technology on the emotional processing of moral behavior.
In both cases, the media sensationalized the results and drew conclusions not warranted by the data. The report is interesting in that it doesn’t point fingers at journalists only but at the whole system of science reporting that introduces perverse incentives.
Journalists are the most frequent targets of complaints about the state of science reporting, but it’s important to emphasize that all of these problems occur before they even get involved. In Karpinski’s case, most of the journalists that handled her story seem to have described it in ways that she was comfortable with. Even in the one case where she felt things went seriously off course, it appeared that the writers had done a good job in the initial draft she’d seen, suggesting problems arose later in the process.
In other words, editors and marketing experts are shaping the reporting in ways that mislead readers.
Incompetence and willful misrepresentation in the media, especially regarding science, are an important issue. As a society we are utterly dependent on science and on the public’s understanding of it. We routinely make personal decisions about what to buy and what activities to engage in based on science reported in the media.
We cannot afford a media that distorts science in order to sell newspapers.