The whole truth and nothing but the truth

By Danielle Church

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend I was not expecting to have. He asked me, “What are your views on the media manipulating stories?” Not entirely sure of what he meant by that, I asked him to explain himself, to which he replied “Is there biased reporting or is it just the way people construe the story?”

Then a week later, a person I had just met said to me “You want to be a journalist? Ok, let me test you. What makes a good reporter: someone who is unbiased or someone who tells the truth?”

I told him good reporters would only answer one way to that question: they do both.

It’s not unusual for anyone who is studying journalism or even a professional to be in those types of situations. People will constantly look at you and question whether the journalism industry is really trustworthy. I can’t even count on one hand the amount of times someone has seen me with a video camera and microphone on the street and asked me what I was doing only to have them tell me “Good for you. We need more people like you out there,” when I wouldn’t tell them my opinion on an issue.

I once stood in front of Trump Tower in Chicago and had a guy come up to my T.V. news partner and me. He was asking us what we were doing and then wouldn’t stop asking us whom we were going to be voting for in the presidential election. He was one of the people who said the world needed more reporters such as my partner and I.

That man and most people act as if every journalist was corrupt in some way. But the truth is, there are very good reporters out there who are unbiased. Sure, my generation of student journalists will be the next ones to take over but there are still plenty of reporters doing great journalism right now.

It can be especially hard to do at times because journalists are, after all, human too. But it’s something we commit to as soon as we say, “I’m going to be a reporter.” We must put aside our stances on certain issues and focus on objectivity.

That’s right, objectivity is not dead.

Reporters are not advocates; they are simply putting all the information out there for people to make their own decisions.

In an era where fact-checking, “fake news” and “alternative facts” are going to change the way the journalism industry approaches things, being objective will be key so reporters can maintain their credibility and give the public accurate information.

Lewis Wallace is an example of a reporter who was fired from his job at American Public Media’s “Marketplace” because he wrote a blog about how objectivity is dead on his personal website.

Wallace, a transgender reporter, felt very strongly about speaking up for certain minority groups, especially with a Trump administration in office. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that – if he wasn’t a journalist. Wallace failed to stick to one of the utmost titles a reporter must have – remain neutral.

The best way someone ever explained to me why reporters need to stay neutral was by my professor and Chicago Sun-Times, NBC5 and Chicago Tonight reporter Carol Marin. She once told my Advanced Reporting class about how an AIDS group wanted her support, but she declined because she felt as though people who were against the group would not feel as though they could speak to her about their own concerns. At first, it might sound a little crazy that you can’t support groups such as the American Heart Society, American Cancer Society, etc.

When you become a part of those groups though, you are taking a side and that can be detrimental to your stories because readers may interpret it the wrong way. They may think you are covering the American Cancer Society because you support them.

The best way that my professors put it is when you decide to be a journalist, you agree to some of your rights being taken away. You cannot vocalize your opinion on issues whether it is on social media, in person or even the newsroom. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion, but keep it to yourself. It’s like walking on egg shells when you state your opinion aloud because as soon as people know the way you feel about an issue, they are automatically going to assume you are reporting a certain way because of your previous post, conversation, etc.

As a journalist, you must be the person on the sidelines watching everything unfold and reporting it fair and truthfully. That is one of the cardinal rules of journalism after all.

Now, it’s not to say that it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. This year has really opened my eyes on why I need to keep my opinions to myself, which can especially be hard to do around friends and family. After conversations in my Advanced Reporting class though, I completely understand why objectivity is not dead and it’s a necessity in the journalism industry.

At the end of the day, no reporter is trying to “manipulate” his or her audience as my friend might have thought. Sometimes it’s just harder for some people to separate their bias from their reporting – which I don’t condone, but think about the last time someone asked you to give up a stance on every issue you’ve taken a side on. But the truth is journalists must remain neutral. It’s also up to readers or viewers though to always be skeptical, stay informed and make their own decisions at the end of the day.

 

 

Diversity in media more than an abstract goal

By Jessica Villagomez

Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence

Newsrooms across the country are looking for ways to capture a variety of perspectives from multiple demographics of people. In seeking these different perspectives, the traditional newsroom model finds itself dealing with a fatal flaw— many of the people, communities and experiences they desire to capture in writing are often not represented in newsrooms themselves.

Of the 42 reporters in the New York Times’ Metro department, only three are Latino, according to the New York Times. New York City has the second largest Hispanic population in the country, yet the demographics of the department that prides itself on capturing New York City’s news doesn’t reflect the city, not even by 10 percent.

This leaves the few reporters of color to become representatives of the minority populations they write about. The burden of representation, the concept that people of color feel a pressure to accurately, objectively and holistically represent a marginalized group is real because of the small amount of reporters of color in newsrooms.

During the summer going into my senior year of college, I interned at HOY Chicago, a Spanish-language daily newspaper under the Chicago Tribune Company. HOY Chicago is unlike any local paper within Illinois and throughout Chicago. As a bilingual publication, reporters, writers and editors at Hoy are committed to report on issues affecting the Latino community in both Spanish and English. Accessibility to news is one of Hoy’s largest priorities, focusing on assuring that Chicago and World news is broken to all populations of Latino households including but not limited to immigrants, Spanish-speakers, or “billenial”, bilingual millennials. Hoy is the largest circulating Spanish-language daily newspaper in Chicago, the website states.

Within my first day I immediately noticed the hard work put in by the reporters working there. Long hours and juggling multiple articles at one given time is commonplace in any newsroom, but there is built in additional stress knowing how important the work you are doing is for a demographic of people. Given that Chicago also has one of the largest Latino populations in the country, I hoped resources would include hiring more reporters to alleviate pressure on current editors and recruiting more writers would be a priority. However less than 10 editors and writers produced the paper and were therefore in charge of producing the news for their audience, every day.

Lessening the burden comes by prioritizing and valuing work produced by reporters of color. In order to get well-rounded newsrooms that are reflective of the communities they report on, a greater push through increased diversity hiring must first occur.

 

 

 

 

 

Clarence Page is coming!!!! What is fake news?

2-time Pulitzer prize winning Tribune columnist Clarence Page is coming to the DePaul Center for Journalism Integrity & Excellence on February 7th to speak to students in the morning and address a larger DePaul gathering at the Union League Club at 5:30P.  He will take a long  look at the last election, the new administration and what it all means for journalism in our time! We can’t wait!

For The Privilege Of Being A Reporter

For the Privilege Of Being A Reporter

by Carol Marin & Don Moseley

The day after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States, an impassioned email arrived from one of our students.  In it she asks critical questions for anyone hoping to work in the world of news.  And anyone who currently does:

 Hi Don & Carol, 

This is probably going to seem like an odd request but I was wondering if, as the directors for the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence, you would send out an email or a statement or something to DePaul’s Journalism program reminding students that one of the pillars of good journalism is objectivity. Since the election, I have seen a lot of my peers posting on various social media sites either they’re (sic) personal thoughts on the outcome and Donald Trump or showing their support for one cause or another. I don’t know if they think this doesn’t compromise their objectivity because they are still students or if they don’t see it as compromising, but having spent the last several months with the both of you grappling with how journalists should conduct themselves in all situations, I think a reminder about the importance of at least maintaining the appearance of objectivity would be useful. 

Thank you for reading my rant.

          Even the most seasoned among us need reminders on a regular basis.

In 2004, I had just joined the Chicago Sun-Times and was writing on deadline for that November election night that pitted incumbent president George W. Bush against Senator John Kerry.  And for the United States Senate, democrat Barack Obama against republican Alan Keyes.

There was a newsroom meeting right before the polls closed.  Managing Editor Don Hayner gathered all of us into the conference room and I will never forget his words: “Gather the vote totals and the facts.  I don’t want to hear a single one of you voice your own opinion in that newsroom.  Are we clear?”

We were clear.  Why?  Because he was.

And we should be as well.

This is a marvelous profession but for the privilege of being a journalist, we voluntarily give up some of the perks of being a citizen.  We keep our personal view to ourselves, not vomited up all over Facebook and Twitter.  We take care to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.  And if we have a conflict, we divulge it.  We go to every story and every interview with an open mind and listen.

If that was a “rant” our student sent, it was a rant worth reading.

And re-reading.

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Have Passion For What You Do

Rather, former news anchor at “CBS Evening News,” spoke Friday night at a community conversation held by Poynter in St. Petersburg, Florida. Included in the audience were members of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, with journalists from 70 countries.

“This is a once-in-a-generation election,” Rather said, “because I think it will reverberate for quite a long time.”

Before this election, Rather said, it was a given that fact and truth counted for something. Politicians were held accountable. The country has never had a campaign that went as low as this one did, Rather said, or one where both candidates both had such negative approval ratings.

But it’s worth remembering, he said to the citizens and international visitors in the audience, that freedom of the press is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

“In our system of government and in our society, a free and independent, truly independent, fiercely independent press is the red beating heart of democracy.”

With a few exceptions, Rather said, the press didn’t distinguish itself in this election. Now, it’s gut-check time.

The press now must do three things to cover President-elect Donald Trump, he said.

One, ask tough questions. Two, “and perhaps more important, ask tough follow-up questions,” he said, not for the benefit of circulation or ratings or demographics, “but because these questions need to be asked.” And three, the press has to dig deep with investigative reporting.

It’s gone a bit out of style, Rather said, “but it’s going to be needed over the next year and a half to two years in particular.”

All of that has to happen in an era that Rather admitted was a different one from his own, when deadlines happened every day, every other day if you were a star. Now, journalists are expected to tweet, Facebook, blog and more.

“There’s a deadline every nanosecond,” he said.

And that leaves less time for actual reporting.

Still, he said, it’s hard to think of a craft, profession or skill whose standards have endured for so long.

Rather took questions from the international journalists in the audience, but his answers may resonate with American journalists now, too. What advice did he have for journalists who feel threatened by their government?

“Some days, in some ways, danger is my business,” Rather said. “That’s what the craft is about.”

He knows what it’s like to balance journalism with family and bills and obligations. He had to make those choices himself, including trekking into Afghanistan in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded. His wife and daughter asked him not to go, Rather told the audience, but he told them it might be one of the great stories of his generation, and he wanted to get it.

There are a lot of downsides to journalism, Rather said.

“But when it’s at its best and you’re part of it, you have a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself,” he said.

The evening’s last question: What advice did he have for women to help stay in journalism?

To be a journalist and to be a good journalist, Rather said, requires passion. Do you have it? Can you develop it? And then, can you sustain it?

Journalists might not make a lot of money, the odds of being famous are so small it’s not even worth thinking about, he said, “but you can live an adventurous life, and at the end you may say some of what I did counted. Some of it mattered.”

Who’s Right?

Same Story, Two Networks: CBS, NBC Differ on Arizona Republic Story

After the Arizona Republic endorsed a democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its 126-year history, outraged readers launched death threats at the paper’s staff.

On Oct. 17, as part of a package about rising tensions in the elections, NBC devoted 20 seconds to the threats.

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NBC Graphic

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the Arizona Republic, said people are spitting on students selling subscriptions and a man threatened to pour boiling water on anyone who comes to his house on the paper’s behalf.

On Oct. 19, CBS ran a nearly three-minute package about the paper’s endorsement and subsequent firestorm.

CBS Graphic

CBS Graphic

CBS reporter Lee Cowan detailed the rude, hateful and threatening emails and phone calls to the paper.

CBS Graphic

CBS Graphic

CBS Graphic

CBS Graphic

 

 

 

 

 

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CBS Graphic

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CBS Graphic

 

 

 

 

 

However, the tone of calls and emails improved after Parrish wrote another editorial thanking those who respectfully disagreed with the paper.

Was it a mistake for NBC not to include how things are getting better at the paper and therefore promote a more fearful tone? Was what NBC did sufficient to tell the story or did it need to be done in the way CBS did? Is this story important enough to warrant coverage from all of the networks?

Carol Marin, political editor for NBC Chicago, said she doesn’t quarrel with the way each network covered the story.

“Someone at NBC decided they wanted a multifaceted story with examples of how the climate in and around this election has become poisonous,” Marin said. “What CBS did was pull out in a fuller way this one instance and I think each is valid.”

Marin said the networks have more discretion when covering this story which is not breaking news and likes that the three networks did not “march in step”.

“It’s a fascinating story to me, but then, I’m the press, Marin said. “I think this is a jump ball.”

This story illuminates the rising tensions between politics and media during this election. Programs with limited airtime have to decide which stories warrant coverage. This story is valuable but not mandatory.

Investigative Reporting

Bombshell Newsday exposé is the exception, not the rule, for local journalism

By James Warren • October 31, 2016

When a big shot Long Island politician was recently charged with swapping contracts and favors for freebie vacations and other bribes, The New York Times gave credit where credit was due.

“The arrests capped months of looming trouble for Mr. Mangano, a powerful figure in Republican politics on Long Island and the top elected official in Nassau County. He has been dogged by reports — many published in Newsday — that he had received free gifts and vacations from a longtime friend, Harendra Singh, a Long Island restaurateur with about 30 businesses in the area and several government contracts.”

When I saw that reference, I dropped a line of congratulations to Rich Rosen, the paper’s managing editor and an old friend, who then passed along a link to the project.

I came away impressed by the tough, old-fashioned reporting and the results it prompted. Yes, the defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But the coverage is honorable and exacting labor — the sort that few elsewhere would care about but seems essential for Rosen’s area of coverage.

You won’t hear pundits on the morning cable news shows discussing it. They’re more likely to spend hours speculating about the latest campaign polls in “battleground” states or the latest Trump-Clinton clash caught on video.

But it’s exactly the sort of un-sexy, tough, labor-intensive work that is imperiled with the decline of local newsgathering resources. Yes, Disney may be throwing $400 million at Vice, and Comcast is investing $200 million in BuzzFeed. But there’s a fat chance they’ll be doing this sort of local journalism with regularity anytime soon.

“For more than a year, a team of Newsday reporters searched countless documents, cultivated sources and did old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism to disclose the connections among Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and businessman and political power player Harendra Singh,” Newsday editor Deborah Henley said.

Much of the work pervades the indictments of Mangano and Venditto. And Singh, who was indicted separately last year, faces more than 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of fraud and bribing a former Oyster Bay employee. Mangano’s wife, Linda, is accused of making $450,000 from a no-show job with Singh and is charged with obstruction and making false statements.

What does it all say about the state of journalism?

I sent the stories to Jack Davis, former publisher of the Hartford Courant and himself a crack investigative reporter earlier in his career.

“This is the kind of disappearing watchdog news coverage that citizens once relied on to prop up a faith that even small government misdeeds would be brought to light,” says Davis, who lives in New Orleans.

“I’m afraid this is a dying genre, with newspaper staffs reduced in many places below the number of reporters needed for investigative work — and with newsroom management depleted of editors capable of guiding investigative reporters.”

He concludes, “I expect that government officials and contractors are responding to being left alone more often by misbehaving more often. The public gets the impression that these granular-level government operations are okay, when the opposite is true.”

For sure, there are some outlets who fully support significant investigations, including some in the frequent journalism wasteland of local TV news.

Carol Marin, a prominent Chicago investigative reporter-anchor, limited her thoughts to her longtime home at the NBC-owned and operated WMAQ-TV. They’ve been supportive.

“And they are giving us not just resources but when advertisers threaten to pull their ads — as a couple recently have — they tell us to keep reporting what we’re reporting. They have our back and it’s good,” says Marin, director of the DePaul Center for Journalism Integrity & Excellence and longtime fixture on “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW, the PBS outlet.

Then there’s Tom Rosenstiel, himself a terrific reporter who now oversees the American Press Institute and wrote about this topic in a 2015 Brookings Institution paper.

I sent him the Newsday work, too, and he makes two points. One involves “the shift in power from content creators to platforms (or content distributors). The second speaks to how “the real crisis in journalism is not technological, It’s geographical. The crisis is the decline of local journalism. There is no shortage of people covering the White House or the campaign.”

As he writes, for Brookings, “The great crisis for American journalism and democratic society shouldn’t be thought about at the platform level — newspapers versus online or television versus streaming, social media versus traditional. It should be understood at the civic and geographic level. The crisis is local. That is where the shrinking is most severe and where
there is least sign of growth.”

He threw out various metrics and other evidence. When it comes to the move to platform from content creation, he puts it this way:

“One change that should raise some concerns is a power shift in our media economy away from journalism institutions that create content and civic knowledge to companies that build technology and platforms instead. In the first two decades of the web at least, content has not been king. Platform has.”

When it comes to that geographical switch, meaning simply fewer reporters on the ground, his take is this:

“The other critical change of the digital era of news is away from what has been the traditional bulwark of American journalism — local news institutions — toward national. From the standpoint of democratic implications, this may be the most significant of all.”

He mentioned one striking indicator of that trend. Looking at the most popular digital networks, only four are engaged to a significant degree in local content creation: Gannett, The New York Times, Hearst and Condé Nast owner Advance Publications.

“The same shift away from local news and local accountability is true if we look at a different list online destinations — the top 50 web networks that fall in the news category. On the list of just journalistic destinations, 36 of the top 50 digital journalism networks are national in nature. Just 14 are local, or even include significant local components.”

He notes that his own definition of what might be deemed news is broad and includes the likes of sports site Bleacher Report.

When it comes to boots on the ground, he cited Labor Department figures that show how the actual number of journalists has risen in only Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles over the last 10 years, which coincides with internet-driven industry tumult.

In the nation’s capital, it’s nearly doubled, while in New York City it’s remained unchanged. Nationwide, there was a loss of about 12,000 journalists, or one out of four reporting positions, with lot of folks heading to more secure financial environs in public relations.

As Rosenstiel puts it, “In other words, the crisis in American journalism isn’t that we don’t have enough people at the White House, though the makeup of that group has shifted, as Towson State University’s Martha Kumar notes, citing the newcomers in the White House daily travel pool who include The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, The Daily Caller, The Guardian, BNA, RealClearPolitics, The Root and Politico.

“The crisis,” says Rosenstiel, “is how few people now cover local, city and state councils of power.”

It’s why our hats are off to Newsday. It’s too bad that more people don’t appreciate the link between strong democracy and this sort of journalism.

Excellence advice from the late CBS reporter Eric Enberg

This comes from a speech Enberg made and this part was published in the online website NewsBlues:

 

“I hate photo opportunities. They’re largely phony and non-substantive and have nothing to do with the way we govern a nation,” said the late CBS correspondent Eric Engbergmore than thirty years ago when he spoke to a meeting of TV news directors. His words ring true now today more than ever.

Engberg believed journalists were letting political candidates manipulate them.

“See if you see yourself in any of this,” he said. “You go to the event. You know the event is silly. You write a story in which you convey to your listeners a sense that the event was silly and contrived. You put the story on the air accompanied by pictures of the candidate riding a horse, eating a blintz, visiting a farm or whatever.”

“If the event has been well-staged by his campaign staff, it doesn’t matter what you said in your copy. The candidate looks pretty good in your story and the next day people come up to you and say, ‘I saw you covered Senator Schmaltz’s event yesterday. Boy he looked good!'”

“You conclude, ‘They didn’t listen to a thing I said. I led the story, ‘Dopey Senator Schmaltz, in another blatant bid for re-election votes, staged another hony-baloney visit to a pig farm yesterday…'”

That is the power of pictures on television.

“I fear we have ceded too much authority to some of the politicians we cover. We ought to try to do something about that,” said Engberg, who worked for CBS News from 1976 to 2003 and died earlier this year. “Where does it start? It starts in the newsroom where editors have to be tougher. They’ve got to be willing to give up those good pictures and give up some of those color stories by saying, ‘This event has no substance to it; it’s a dog and pony show. Let’s write it out.’ It begins with the individual reporter and his or her willingness to stand for what he or she believes.”

“We have to fight these battles the way an infantry platoon fights them—one hill at a time. But it’s only when we are fighting these battles, not when we’re giving in, not when we’re letting the technological tail wag the editorial dog—it’s then that we have the right to call ourselves by what I think is the most honorable title I know: reporters.”

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