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Reporting is more than rewriting off the internet

Posted by: | October 27, 2010 | No Comment |

Reporting has come a long way since America and England were connected by a telegraph cable. Before that time, newspaper publishers had to wait for the mail to arrive with the news. Often, they would print stories that were little more than idle gossip. Unfortunately, some of those stories were false resulting in a public that did not trust what they read in the newspapers.

The telegraph helped increase the speed at which information could be spread. Instead of waiting for the news to come, reporters could go out and gather the information to pass along. By writing about their own observations, reporters helped news become more reliable.

With the rise of the internet, many reporters are now again waiting for information to come to them. Of course, the news comes to them much faster now, but it is a throwback to the days when what went into the newspaper was taken directly from the mail without being personally verified by the reporter. This is not necessarily bad, as long as the reporter acknowledges the source of the information. That way, the reader can decide whether the information is credible or not.

In 1997 the Committee of Concerned Journalists began a process to determine what principles journalists should strive to hold to. After four years, they created a Statement of Shared Purpose which stated:

  • Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
  • Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens
  • Journalism’s essence is a discipline of verification
  • Journalism’s practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
  • Journalism must serve as an independent monitor of power
  • Journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise
  • Journalism must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant
  • Journalism must keep the news comprehensive and proportional
  • Journalism’s practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience

It may be impossible for a reporter to hold to all of these principles in every single story that is written, but it is a worthy goal.

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