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The NYT goes all 'journalists know better than readers' again

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sm72, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. sm72

    sm72 Member

    Alright, just read this strikingly uppity column: http://t.co/9iLWIuCY

    First off, to me, it comes off as extremely self-righteous and arrogant. The readers point it out in the comments, too. A sampling from the tail end of the story: "It ought to go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers know what to believe, to help them make their way through complicated and contentious subjects."

    Yes, it goes without saying. Because readers aren't dumb. As much as journalists take an "explain everything" approach, people can read between the lines. Times readers, in particular, can probably do so.

    Secondly, the whole column is about a new standard of truth: Journalists need to not only report both sides, but make sure the information they get from both sides is factual. What? This hasn't been a standard for the entire history of the practice? Because if not, I missed the memo and put in a bunch of wasted effort on some story. Damn, I regret that I checked all my facts on every story before publishing.

    Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
  2. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    I'm not sure I understand the nature of your objection. It's the NYT ombud making a mild point about false balance.
  3. sm72

    sm72 Member

    The nature of it is pretty clear. The ombudsman suggests two things I take issue with:

    1) That journalism hasn't had the standards she thinks should be common practice. Good journalists do check their facts and make sure they don't put bullshit in a story just because it's from someone else's mouth. Her point implies that reporters, in general, don't do that, and it takes a broad brush to the profession that is just plain wrong.

    2) The entire article tries to argue for journalists to make sure they're reporting facts for the readers' good, but comes off in such a way that by the end, you have a picture of readers as mindless puppets who sit and nod thoughtlessly at every article they read. Regardless of how well or poorly reported an article is, a critical reader -- and most people above a middle school education are critical readers -- will look at it and come to their own conclusion. To say that it's a journalist's job to "help readers know what to believe" suggests they couldn't decide if something someone says is true or false on their own, or do their own research. That's belittling to the reader and implies that good journalism talks down to its audience. I take offense to both of those claims, as well.
  4. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    Agreed. I don't get the complaint either.
  5. sm72

    sm72 Member

    Look up.
  6. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    Except the kind of "journalism" the ombudsman is decrying is very, very common, on every level of journalism. Reporters are constantly looking to make sure "the other side" is fairly represented, no matter how provably wrong the other side might be.

    Just the other day I read a story about whether people should be allowed to be foster parents if they refuse to have children vaccinated out of concerns over autism. It essentially got a "many parents believe there is a link, but others say that's not true" treatment. In a case like that, presenting both sides equally isn't "fairness" -- it's bullshit. But it happens all the time.
  7. Uncle.Ruckus

    Uncle.Ruckus Guest

    I have to ask (without injecting politics) if our young friend reads any political journalism. Because it's rife with forced "balance." I also think he gives readers way too much credit.
  8. sm72

    sm72 Member

    I read plenty of it, and I know it's an epidemic there, but at the same time politics is a lot of he-said-she-said. Plus you can't really give a Republican play over a Democrat in an ideological debate without realistically showing a slant, so I can understand it a bit more on that occasion.

    I might be giving readers too much credit, but I'm okay with that. It's safe to assume people don't believe the vast majority of what they read from media these days, anyway. There's a lot of distrust from the audience's perspective, and I think the majority of it stems from dumbing things down to the point where it seems we aren't telling the whole truth.

    In the information age, if a person has more questions after a story, such as "What did he mean by that?", they can find those answers by looking around online for 5-10 minutes, where they might just find differing opinions on the matter and become even more educated on whatever topic it might be. And if I might throw this in with no disrespect to anyone on here, the same people that suggested they knew what their audience needed best and knew more than the readers are the ones that ran the print business six feet under.
  9. Cubbiebum

    Cubbiebum Member

    Somebody needs a nap.
  10. sm72

    sm72 Member

    Better than needing some Viagra.
  11. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Of all the good things to go on rants about, this column ain't one of them.
  12. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    What's incredible is that I didn't start this thread.

    (I haven't even read the linked article.)
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