Week 3’s readings gave me a lot of useful information about what a journalists should and should not do. After skimming Poynter’s “100 Things Journalists Should Never Do” and “Frank Fee’s Tips for Accuracy,” I walked away with several tips that will help me both as an editor and as a reporter. I think one of the best tips is to always ask, “Is there anything else I should know?” This is always a question I get nervous to pose when I am reporting. In my mind, it seems like a weakness if you have to ask it. Shouldn’t you be able to know if you’re missing something? Besides, it’s the reporter’s job to ask, and the source’s job to answer, right? But if I’ve learned anything from my (albeit not very extensive) reporting experience, it’s that you can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there and sometimes looking like an idiot. I would much rather have to bite the bullet and ask that humble question than later have to go back and ask again. And as an editor, I would hate to have to scurry to find missing information in a story on deadline.
One of Poynter’s tips that stood out to me was: “A journalist should never do: confuse impartiality with decontexualised he said-she said reporting.” I was always taught that if you are dealing with a controversial story, you have to get both sides. Frank Fee, in his “Tips for Accuracy,” says journalists should “always follow the Rule of Fair Comment.” But when does it turn into pure hearsay? I know I’ve read several stories that sound like they were collected from a middle school cafeteria. Many stories dealing with two sides sound like gossip. But if you have to get both sides, how do you prevent this? I don’t really have an answer to that; I am really just thinking out loud. Perhaps the key is to follow another one of Frank Fee’s tips and follow the “Rule of the Best Source.” If journalists always make an effort to contact the most authoritative and objective sources, these he-said, she-said stories could be avoided.
After reading through week 4’s readings, I learned that my own hesitation to ask “Is there anything else I should know?” reflects a problem all across the journalism industry. I think one of journalism’s main flaws is its own ego. For so many years, newspapers were the sole authority for news. They were trusted everywhere. People ran to the streets to grab copies when something major happened. Newspaper reporters and editors were people who were trusted among citizens. Then came the Internet, and everything changed. Nowadays, there are such things as “citizen journalists” and bloggers. They provide established media organizations with competition, competition that often lacks the professional training of traditional journalists. Our first instinct as journalists is to disregard these new media outlets. But this week’s readings show me that collaborating with the public, as well as competing media organizations, might just save the industry. The writer of “State 2.0: A Front End?” defines networked journalism as a collaboration of “the technical capacity of mainstream media with much greater public participation in a thoroughly more open structural relationship between citizen and/as journalist.” In other words, news organizations work hand in hand with the public to deliver news. In “SuperMedia: The Future as ‘Network Journalism’” the writer says this public participation “liberates” traditional media. Now it’s up to traditional media to get over its long-held ego and let the public in. If newspapers can break the façade that has separated them from the public, I think they have a shot at surviving. The writer also says “networked journalism is a process, not a product.” Before the Internet, when newspapers only had to worry about the actual print product, journalism was very much a tangible product. Nowadays, when people expect live updates on news all day, journalism is becoming less about the tangible product and more about the process. The Fort Meyers News Press understood this when they asked for readers’ help in finding information after Hurricane Katirna. There’s no doubt that they had to overcome a lot of pride in doing this, but in the end, collaborating with the public worked for them.
Network journalism not only requires collaboration with the public, but also with competing news organizations. An example of this can be found in Publishing 2.0’s reading about four journalists from competing newspapers in Washington working together and linking to each other’s stories when covering a major story. This also must have taken a lot of humility, but in the end, the news was delivered in a more timely and accurate fashion. And that is the No. 1 priority in journalism, not our egos.