Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Now Here's an Example of How the MSM gets it Wrong


      The McKinsey report on journalism education shows that the MSM doesn't know what it's doing.
  • Journalists are ignorant of their own profession's history.

  • The J-schools think academia is more important the rest of the world.

  • The industry is full of elitists who don't know what they're job really is.

  • They should learn to stop whining about having to satisfy customers.

  • They know the public doesn't trust them, but can't bring themselves to ask why.

  • To the extent they know what their job is, they don't know how to do it.

In Depth:

      From the Executive Study of the McKinsey Study on Journalism Education, (except I viewed the HTML version, rather than the evil PDF):
      Understood as central to the strength and vitality of American democracy, the press -- an institution outside government -- was included among the civic organizations and activities to be protected by the Bill of Rights.  A free press,the founders believed, was essential to keeping watch on the affairs of government and creating an active, politically informed public.

      Don't they teach J-school graduates or MBAs any history?

      First, the "press" in the First Amendment refers to a machine, the printing press, and an activity, publishing written information.  It doesn't refer to an institution.

      Second, the Bill of Rights did not guarantee a free press, no matter how you define the word "press."  It guaranteed that the Federal government wouldn't interfere with publishing.  The states, however, were free to do so.

      As for what the Founders believed, well, you want to show us some evidence, maybe refer us to the monograph literature?  Do you even realize why you some of us think you ought to have?

      As our nation goes forward into its third century, it has become increasingly difficult for journalists and journalism to carry out the responsibilities of the profession implicit in the language of the First Amendment while meeting the inexorable demands of a competitive marketplace.  In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, fewer than one in four individuals said they believe all or most of what they read or see on television news shows, which, along with newspapers -- both pillars of the industry -- have suffered damaging blows to the credibility of their reports.  This unimpressive view of journalism is reflected in the academic world, where schools of journalism have never achieved the stature long enjoyed by schools that prepare students for medicine, law, architecture, business and other careers.

      Yes, it's the fault of the marketplace, which cruelly demands you write something people are interested in reading.  How awful, that you don't have a guaranteed income, paid no matter how boring and wrong you are.

      And note how the question of lack of trust comes up, without anyone asking 'Is the public right?  Do we get a majority of our reports wrong?'  Instead, they worry that they aren't respected in universities!

      But in my arrogant opinion, the single worst failing of the nation's news media and journalism schools is encapsulated in the statement:
The majority of interviewees agreed that the most critical responsibility of journalists is to serve the public interest and protect our democracy.

      No, MSM, your most critical responsibility is to get the story right.  Your second is to 'get the right stories,' that is, figure out what news is important.

      I admit, they give lip service to the idea:
      Among the key items on the "to do" list that the newsleaders prescribed for J schools were these:

  • Teaching basic reporting and writing skills, as wethe paramountamount importance of getting the facts right.
  • Developing news judgment and analytical skills, including the ability to separate fact from opinion and use statistics correctly.

      But the embarrassments of Newsweek and 60 Minutes Wednesday show that they don't know how to do it, much less teach it.  If you could manage to teach people to get the facts, and cover the right stories, the public interest would largely take care of itself.  And as for protecting democracy, don't try.  The theory of democratic government is that the citizens can and should make the main decisions about law and policy.  The idea that democracy can only survive if watched over by a special group, journalists, is in fact profoundly anti-democratic.  MSM, WE DON'T NEED YOU TELLING US WHAT TO DO!

      They're also right when they say that reporters need to know more about the subjects they cover.  But since they don't practice what they preach, I don't take it too seriously.



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