Week 6 — Guidelines for reporting

Kovach and Rosenstiel in their book, Blur, promote “ways of skeptical knowing.”   They admonish readers that they can no longer rely on “trust me” journalism. Readers must insist on journalism that “shows” them. “Show me” journalism, then, has to meet the expectations of readers who have developed “ways of skeptical knowing.”

The reading this week, from Chapter 8, “How to Find What Really Matters,” is a rich with valuable advice for both readers and journalists in these times of “show me” journalism. With that in mind it is toward the end of the chapter that the authors pose a series of questions that are aimed at reader, but I feel also apply to journalists.

They write, “We should ask ourselves if we are really asking questions? Are we really trying to expand our knowledge? Are we willing to entertain the possibility that we might have something to learn, that we might even change our minds, or at least our understanding? Are we willing to accept facts that don’t reinforce our preconceptions? Or are our questions really rhetorical ones designed to reassure ourselves that what we believe is true?” Others follow, but that it the gist.

What I like about this line of thinking, as well as how it fits with the general overall subject for this week’s studies, is that it provides a baseline for all good reporting. In the pursuit of truth, one needs to put truth first, not a preconceived notion of reality. This positioning of the self is critical for a journalist and her reader.

If anything, questioning with truth as the goal creates a bond between the news reader and the news provider. Based on the quality of the questioning of the reporter and how deeply she inquiries into the consequences surrounding an event, the reader develops trust. But that trust is only as good as the reporting and the quality of the thinking, of the inquiring that it contains.

I listen to a lot of news over the radio, but I think this example applies to reporting across all media. For instance, half way through a report, that includes an interview, an interviewee will make a comment, and the interviewer fails to call the interviewee on that statement, but goes on to the next question. In that one missed moment, my faith in the reporter fails.

At times, this lapse of “a way of skeptical knowing” in practice, leaves me wondering if the reporter was listening, or that even perhaps has an agenda. However things break out, something is lost. That is a cautionary tale for journalists: readers have questions that need to be answered; much of the time, those questions arise in the heat of an interview–be prepared.

At the same time, I can’t say how many times an insightful reporter has asked just the right question to set off a whole new line of inquiry that I hadn’t even considered. And for that I am grateful. Either way I am looking for journalism to expand my knowledge base, including breaking through my own preconceptions–especially, my preconceptions.

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