Sunday, September 13, 2009

10 Ugly truths about modern journalism :: 10,000 Words

10 Ugly truths about modern journalism

Friday, September 11, 2009

1. The stories that are published are the stories that sell

The reason you're more likely to read about a shooting spree than a library opening is because with dwindling resources, broadcasters and print publications must devote their time to stories that will grab the most attention. Hyperlocal sites like EveryBlock have stepped up to fill the void, but the phrase "if it bleeds, it leads" has never been truer.

2. Many stories are not copy edited

In the age of layoffs and buyouts, many of the first people to go in the newsroom are the copy editors, the people ensure that published stories are accurate and well-written. Without copy editors, many stories, especially those that appear online, are being published without first being checked for spelling and grammar. These errors are becoming even more frequent and are a mark of credibility against the news outlet.

3. Many stories come from wire services

Years ago, newspapers were brimming with stories written by staff reporters about national and international issues. As these reporters are being downsized, more of the national stories that appear in the local paper are written by wire services like Reuters and the Associated Press, meaning a lack of diverse voices covering any given issue.

4. Some journalists are driven by awards

The great majority of journalists gravitate to the profession to spread the news to as many people as possible and enlighten the communities they cover. There are also some journalists who write stories not for readers, but with the intent of winning big name awards like Pulitzers and Emmys. Though they may not openly admit it, some stories are written to gain the adoration of other journalists rather than to empower readers.

5. Journalists are biased

There is no such thing as is humanly impossible. While journalists often strive to make sure their stories are as unbiased as possible, many cover particular subjects or issues because they feel particularly strong about them.

6. Some journalists use Wikipedia

Although the use of Wikipedia is frowned upon in many newsrooms because of its perceived unreliability, many reporters do use the wiki as a source and unverified facts that appear on the site sometimes make their way into news stories. Such was the case with the obituary of French composer Maurice Jarre. Many newspapers published a quote found on his Wikipedia page that was never uttered by Jarre himself, but was added to the page by a then 22-year-old university student.

7. There is no big conspiracy

Not so much an ugly truth, but a truth some refuse to accept. There are a growing number of critics who decry the media for collectively and intentionally pushing either the liberal or conservative agenda (which agenda depends on who you ask). The truth is such a coordinated effort does not exist and most publications are made up of individual journalists with a wide of variety of interests and (you guessed it) political leanings.

8. Many journalists have side projects

In the golden age of journalism, reporters could dedicate themselves exclusively to their work in the newsroom when there was no fear of being sudden layoffs. But when a pink slip could come at a moment's notice and paychecks are becoming increasingly smaller, many more journalists are writing books, creating blogs, consulting, and anything that can build their personal brand or bring in a few extra dollars.

9. Entertainment stories rule

When journalists lament the "death" of journalism, they are often referring to the big investigative pieces that expose politicians and bring to light previously uncovered issues. The reality is, the most popular stories on news sites are often not investigative pieces, but entertainment stories and celebrity news. Paris Hilton can often drive more traffic than the president.

10. No one has the answers

Everyone is looking for the savior of journalism and the solution to the industry's problems. Social networking, paywalls, restructuring and micropayments have all been suggested as the key to saving journalism, but anyone who says they have a definite answer is delusional or misinformed. Together we will try to do everything to ensure journalism's future, but what exactly that magic solution is remains to be seen.

Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Reasons why online news sites suck
10 Things I wish they'd told me in J-School
25 Things I've Learned About Journalism


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Blogger Dr. R Says:    
When might that golden age have been?

September 11, 2009 11:11 AM

Blogger King Kaufman Says:    
Is the typo in No. 2 a subtle joke?

September 11, 2009 1:28 PM

Blogger David Gerard Says:    
Heh. I do volunteer press for Wikipedia in the UK. I speak to lots of journalists and journalists' researchers - most of whom, by the way, are entirely decent people who do their best - and I don't think I've spoken to one in the past four years who *doesn't* use Wikipedia as their handy universal backgrounder.

Of course, one definition of journalism is turning useful-but-unreliable sources into quality ones. So they have the mental equipment to deal with Wikipedia entirely properly, and when they get lazy it's presumed they were big boys and should have known better :-)

Wikipedia is not "reliable" - it's just written by people - but it's useful. Just check the references!

September 12, 2009 4:23 AM

Anonymous kungle Says:    
I think your opinion is influenced by actual economic, social and political problems.

Try to find publisher from different countries - you will always find interesting news.

I'm using the news aggregator to follow many thousands of headlines daily.
Currently there are many news about the beginning football season (of course), but have your heard about the protest against dolphin slaughter in Taij (Japan Times)?

There a more interesting news on the web than you can imagine.

And a small amendment: Political stories rule, followed by economy and boulevard news. Take a look at the stats on that page.

September 12, 2009 11:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous Says:    
The idea that journalists aren't unbiased seems to come up a lot on this site. The problem is this is thrown around in the media and online to try to back up the claim that there's no real difference between journalists and bloggers (or TV pundits). The difference is that journalism is a profession, and professional journalists have a set of mental tools they use to try to strip bias out of their stories, plus a team of editors to catch what they may have missed. It's a skill, and one that bloggers and TV blowhards don't have and don't wish to learn. That's fine, as long as readers and viewers know there is a difference.

September 12, 2009 11:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous Says:    
Not so much a critique of modern journalism as it is a critique of capitalism and the effects of capitalism on modern journalism.

September 12, 2009 11:48 PM

Blogger Damiandt Says:    
7. There is no big conspiracy.

Really? Check out Dec 24, 2007 COVER STORY of Time magazine.

Topic - Discuss the Republican candidates speaking at the debates and running for President.

They only discussed 5 when there where 6. They literally took photoshop and cut the 6th person OUT.

If it isn't a conspiracy the only other choice is sheer incompetence and bias.

Thanks to the fact many people don't have internet we have the worthless president we have today.


Only thing that changed was the name on the desk.

September 13, 2009 12:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous Says:    
Hello from the planet of ski-jumping & wife-carrying championships, so please do forgive me my poor English skills.

Nr 5 is actually called 'specializing' = more in-depth journalism

Nr 8 is also called enthusiasm,curiosity, networking & digging deeper.

Nr 9 Entertainment = also a well-
written story about gardening or birding, for the specific target group. Also: most 'entertainment' stories are written with the highest journalistic standards & with the same, or even tighter, journalism ethics than the 'serious' stories.

Nr 1 = what reader wants = a successful mag = biz. Concepts & target groups vary but the purpose for businesses and most publishers is to make profit. It doesn't mean bad journalism. It means quality. It means readers get what they want and that they also want to buy the next issue. The publisher makes money, but it needs professionals to reach that goal.

Regards, a publisher who hires only professionals who don't need awards to be great

September 13, 2009 12:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous Says:    
Actually, journalism is not a profession. Professions have a certification process to prove qualification. Does journalism have this? No. Do ALL journalists abide the same standards? No.

September 13, 2009 12:59 AM

Blogger Shane Says:    
You have a heuristic argument: "There is no conspiracy because media organizations have journalists that can thinking on their own."

Like any rule of thumb, it may be right in some contexts and wrong in others.

You seem to suggest that conspiracies that aren't covered by the media don't exist. Perhaps some which weren't covered by the media are eventually covered by the media, while some aren't.

You don't do much research on this topic, do you? If you look, there are many books on this topic. Try Into the Buzzsaw. Here are two Web resources that make the

Exhibit A:
Iran-Contra's 'Lost Chapter' By Robert Parry (A Special Report) June 30, 2008 -
(It covered up the CIA-run Republican propaganda system that pays media entities to spread propaganda. News Corp. and UPI are among those paid.)

Exhibit B:
The CIA and the Media: How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up
(At that point 400 CIA agents had infiltrated the media, sometimes with the cooperation of upper-level management.)

Remember: You didn't hear about this from the mainstream media.

Check out Sibel Edmonds to see how even the sale of nuclear secrets by members of Congress is not being reported widely.

September 13, 2009 1:40 AM

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