Week 8 — Student media’s leadership role

Two things here.

First, from Chapter 7 of Kovach and Rosenstiel’s book, Blur, the deconstruction of what has been happening to news over the past few years stung, like a well-placed left jab, and then laid me out flat, with a cold calculating overhand right. The chapter, “Assertion, Affirmation, Where’s the Evidence?” like one of those punches, is one that I kind of, should have seen coming, should have expected and didn’t, but now that it’s landed, “understand” fully.

Second relates to the theme for the week and concerns students, as members of the press/media, taking a leadership role. My initial thinking on this is that armed with the knowledge provided by Kovach and Rosenstiel and a bunch of other guides, students will be, and are, more capable of dealing with phenomena, such as the journalism of assertion and the journalism of affirmation–and that makes them the ones to lead us out of current morass.

The trick here, however, has to do with whether or not students are willing to become journalists, as Bob Collins asks in his NewsCut piece, “Are young people still interested in journalism?”

In a most telling way, using ample evidence and providing scenarios, Kovach and Rosenstiel use the example of the interview format to show how the current practices have turned on its head a once powerful and effective mechanism of informing the public. In as few words a possible, journalists are no longer in charge of the process.

Rather than researching their subjects in depth prior to an interview taking place, journalists find themselves having subjects booked for them and questions someone else drafts handed to them as they are going on the air. Subjects, then, use the time to get out their talking points, share misinformation or partial information and spin a story under the guise of having been interviewed. It all looks official to an uninformed audience.

To complicate things, subjects often call the shots, determining the nature of the questioning prior to accepting an interview. There’s more, but that provides an idea of the extent that the news quality is compromised.

From my experience with students, I think they get this–of course, after having had it pointed out to them. But that is pretty much all they need. Taking on journalism is another thing. Being mightily aware that they will have to have a job someday, the problem lies in, as one of the commenters on Collins’ piece states, whether journalism pays. I like to think students can be idealists, but with so much pressure on them to land jobs, something that is not only at the back of their minds but often spoken across the dinner table.




1 Comment

  1. Since our last conversation I’ve been trying to assess what constitutes news on our local broadcasts. Two days ago that survivor of the Marathon bombing was killed in a traffic accident in Dubai. She was a lovely young lady who had now become a character in two awful stories—tragic and heartbreaking—but is it news deserving of interviews with her parents and former teachers? or is it an incident that we might be interested to hear about but would have heard about anyway had we been family or friend? I know it sounds callous, but it’s a question worth asking.

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