Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy . . . 24/7 Media!

A recent college graduate I know decided—rather spontaneously—to explore for herself some of the recent "Occupy Wall Street" protests in her nearby city. Along with a few of her friends, she arrived at a park, grabbed a pre-fab sign and stood on a corner expressing her right to protest what she saw as "economic inequality." It was a personal participation in democracy for a political science major.

Within a few hours, a reporter from a major daily newspaper stopped by to chat. The grad expressed appreciation for her college education, felt well prepared and given great experiences, but that, alas, she had yet to secure the job of her dreams. The reporter scribbled and nodded and walked away. The grad held her sign higher and when evening came, traveled back to her apartment with her friends, glad for the opportunity of solidarity.

Until the next day. The grad read in horror one lone quote out of all she'd told the reporter. Out of context, she appeared in print as other than she knew herself to be. And her education continued as 24/7 bloggers and lazier reporters grabbed that quote (without one calling the graduate to verify if she'd really said it) and recycled it for their own—often ugly—purposes. One lone sentence ripped from the bigger story of this graduate's life threw her into a tailspin of doubts: maybe she hadn't looked hard enough to get a job. Maybe she wasn't qualified. Maybe she shouldn't have protested.

When reporters get it wrong, especially in this 24/7 news cycle, more than just a story goes awry. Talented and well meaning young people who want to make a difference are affected, their vision to contribute is compromised, their voice diminished a little more than it should have been. They begin to think twice about what they can and can't do, and worse, who they can and can't trust in the media. Without truth in context, the news defeats the very purpose it was supposed to provide: reporting accurate information that helps citizens draw their own conclusions about what should or should not be occupied.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kudos to Local Journalism

Local editor Dave Olson of the Salem News recently reminded readers and students alike of the important role a community newspaper plays. But he also focused on the need for verification and on the record sources, aspects of a story that maintain the integrity of a newspaper. Without those fundamental components of journalism, readers lose trust in the paper . . . and the industry. But as long as good reporters (and editors) pay attention to these, communities are served with the information they need to draw their own conclusions.
Kudos to Dave! Read his op ed.