On the very first day of journalism school, we were told the first rule in journalism: always remain neutral.
While it may seem like a simple axiom to follow, it is one that has been completely abandoned by most reporters and news organizations as they have shifted straight out of neutral and right into fifth gear in their attempt to garner as many viewers as possible.
Not only are these outlets responding to alleged incidents, ones coming from “anonymous” sources, but they are backing up these “breaking news” reports with comments from completely biased sources who have no inside knowledge of the supposed occurences.
A great example is the Today Show’s report this morning on a so-called US State Department “cover up” of officials leaving their posts to solicit prostitution and under-age women.
Instead of getting the story corroborated by multiple sources, this popular morning news show simply reported on it with anyonymous quotes and exerpts highlighted from unknown sources and documents.
Apparently, Matt Lauer and staff need to rent All the President’s Men.
To make matters worst, instead of going to someone in the Obama Administration, the State Department, or anybody in between who might have the slightest salient understanding of the situation, guess who they decide to interview?
A right-winged, biased, conservative talk show host who knows absolutely nothing about what happened. So, thanks to the great reporting by NBC, viewers were treated to an open-mic rant by someone who makes money off attacking all things to his left.
As if that wasn’t enough to strike a death-blow to the first rule in journalism, the final dagger in the back came when nobody else was allowed to refute his dogmatic point of view.
Nobody. After the Obama bashing it was straight to the weather.
Whatever you want to call it, sensational or yellow journalism, this type of one-sided, opinionated reporting of “news” is giving the industry a black eye.
Woodward and Bernstein would have loved being newspaper reporters today. Forget spending stressful days in dark, scary parking garages trying to track down a second reliable source – all you need these days is someone with an opinion and a grudge and you can report the next Watergate from your own garage.
It has come to the point where some people have just stopped watching the “news.” After all, how do we separate a real story from simple speculation?
And because of that, it’s time to send all reporters – and their producers – back to journalism school. The first rule in journalism only takes a few moments to learn, but hopefully it’s enough to stop them from creating the news and return to simply reporting it.
To all the journalists out there trying to drive stories and ratings – it’s time to slow down, switch gears, and put the news van back in neutral.