Utne Blogs > Media

If You Ran A News Organization, What Would You Do Differently?

Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media, has issued 22 new rules for news organizations. He offers up his edicts as weapons against lazy and unimaginative journalism. Here are four of my favorites:

- Transparency would be a core element of our journalism. One example of many: every print article would have an accompanying box called "Things We Don't Know," a list of questions our journalists couldn't answer in their reporting. TV and radio stories would mention the key unknowns. Whatever the medium, the organisation's website would include an invitation to the audience to help fill in the holes, which exist in every story.

- We would replace PR-speak and certain Orwellian words and expressions with more neutral, precise language. If someone we interview misused language, we would paraphrase instead of using direct quotations. (Examples, among many others: The activity that takes place in casinos is gambling, not gaming. There is no death tax, there can be inheritance or estate tax. Piracy does not describe what people do when they post digital music on file-sharing networks.)

- If we granted anonymity and learned that the unnamed source had lied to us, we would consider the confidentially agreement to have been breached by that person, and would expose his or her duplicity, and identity. Sources would know of this policy before we published. We'd further look for examples where our competitors have been tricked by sources they didn't name, and then do our best to expose them, too.

- Beyond routinely pointing to competitors, we would make a special effort to cover and follow up on their most important work, instead of the common practice today of pretending it didn't exist. Basic rule: the more we wish we'd done the journalism ourselves, the more prominent the exposure we'd give the other folks' work. This would have at least two beneficial effects. First, we'd help persuade our community of an issue's importance. Second, we'd help people understand the value of solid journalism, no matter who did it.

What would you do differently?

Source: Guardian

 

julia kennedy_1
10/7/2009 6:47:46 PM

TV news hosts and guests would not talk over each other. Each might have a light to indicate their turn, when the light goes out, their mike goes off. News to amuse would not be on serious news shows. Stories would have a limited number of repeats, labeled as such, and would not return unless substance could be added, or as in a review of news of the week. News would be offered as a public service--no sponsors except the corporation. News people would not refer disparagingly to one another. Negative mention of rivals would be reserved for correcting errors.


kit kellison
10/7/2009 3:57:39 PM

I'm very impressed that someone in journalism feels it is their obligation to teach the public how to think critically about the information they consume. Since public schools have obviously failed in that regard, it's very important that people be shown how information can be skewed. Another easy example of how reporting botches up news is how medical advancements are reported. Time after time you see a report that shows a relationship between two things where a causative relationship is implied but far from proven. It would have been wonderful, for example, when it was found out that the life extending action of cholesterol drugs was due to it's anti-inflammatory properties that SOMEONE could have asked whether aspirin and ibuprofen had the same effect. You hear the researchers say, without offering evidence, that they KNOW reducing cholesterol prevents heart disease, but there has never been a good study that proves this, and no reporter even asks the question, or asks for proof. As expensive and dangerous as these drugs are, you'd think insist on proof of efficacy. It is certainly being discussed in other scientific and medical circles.


tom hendricks
10/6/2009 11:14:38 AM

There is so much wrong with ad driven media that it is impossible even to sum it up. It's like the fish story - you widen your hands to their farthest and say, "And that was just the photo!" Put readers ahead of advertisers. Dump advertisers. Cover the 90% of the news by good reasonable people, and reduce the gore reports. Sign the decency pledge against sensationalism for sales, get back to basics, cover the entire story - that means background, problem, AND possible solutions by experts, allow for fair comment, allow for media criticism by outsiders, more national news, more local news, more fair art coverage, end boycott of the new arts, stop fluff reviews, stop press release journalism, talk about the blue economy - not just the red economy, etc. etc. etc. etc. I need pages just to list let alone discuss.