Since I have been studying Journalism at my own pace using information from the university library, on-line journals, textbooks, television, newspapers, journals, among others, I attempted to recognize the strengths and the weaknesses of this profession. And since I have already shared (in my earlier posts) the broad societal role of journalism, the significance of media in political conflicts, its tripartite role and other positive remarks, it's about time to flip the other side of the coin.
- Yes, the press should present the truth about any event or story. But realistically, it can present only some facts about every story, for news reporters are not the omniscient observers that they might seem to be.
- According to David Broder, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist and author, press reports are flawed: (1) time pressure under which reporters have to submit their news stories; (2) inability to reach all the sources they would wish to interview or research (though, it is their duty to sniff out all sides of the truth, situations themselves sometimes do not cooperate). I remembered my Journalism teacher in grade school pointing out the relevance to get the different perspectives of the people, failure to get such may also be a failure to present a truthful presentation. We have to be reminded that reporters and journalists guided with profession ethics strive to get access to all truths, but the information they have in the end is always incomplete and is just a surface sketch of what the reality is.
- Yes, newspapers (and other print media) are the first draft in history, they should not be taken as the final authority. Readers tend to trust the printed word implicitly and newsmen pretend to have an authority which they do not possess. The same is true with broadcast/TV/radio media.
- The weakness of the press to be manipulated by politicians. To quote Broder, "...every good politician will attempt to work the press. If you live in a country where public opinion ultimately decides public policy, any politician who's at all serious is going to try to manage public opinion, and that means working with the press."
- Yellow journalism, tabloid journalism - lowered standard of news journalism, most of the times neglecting the basics and ethics like objectivity and fairness.
- Sensationalism and to what Che Che Lazaro points out, "envelopmental journalism" - to bribe journalist in favor of a media coverage.
- Libelous practices (defamation of character) such as unchecked facts, drawn assumptions, non-supported notes, printing false information, among others. Libel laws are given in order to protect the citizens against the supreme power of the press. The usual rebuttal to this is provable truth and assertion of a story done without malice.
- Invasion of privacy, that is, some journalists thirsty of scoops resort to improper or even illegal means to gain information.
- Obstruction of justice
- Going beyond risky lines - Due to the inevitable news gathering competitions, some journalists resort to go beyond risky lines -- police lines, restrictive areas, etc. (case of journalist Ces Drilon). But then, there's a lesson behind every story, "No story is worth a journalist's life."
Journalism by Estelita Constantino Pangilinan
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