Say goodbye to the discerning journalist, or “Kids these days…”
“Does it matter where a story comes from, as long as it makes the news? Apparently it doesn’t matter at all, to many of the latest crop of journalism students who believe their smart phones hold the keys to truth.”
So begins Lynne Russell’s post for MediaShift on the iPod-listenin’, tweet-believin’, smartphone-clutchin’ journalism students at Centennial College in Toronto, where she is the “Storyteller in Residence.” Russell talks about her days with CNN Headline News, where “facts were gathered, confirmed, checked and double-checked the old-fashioned way,” which is done with face-to-face or phone conversations with sources, in case you’re wondering. (And it’s an infallible process… okay, most of the time).
The post singles out “young journalists” for their willingness to give credence to, as Russell says, “unsolicited photos and reports that arrive on their cell phones.” But surely it wasn’t only young journalists who were managing the online, radio, and television outlets that pronounced Gordon Lightfoot dead last year? Could it have something to do the conditions under which many journalists work today?
Russell writes that, when a news tip or user-submitted content (video, etc.) arrives, “there is a tremendous temptation to use it now — presumably, before a competitor does.” But, rather than “temptation,” perhaps “pressure” is the more apt word. Russell’s article got us thinking about Claude Adams and his story of losing his freelance gig with the CBC (we mentioned it a while back). Adams, under intense pressure, wrote up a script and got a key fact of a story wrong. This isn’t exactly what Russell is talking about, mind you, because the story had already been reported and in this case Adams didn’t (or felt he didn’t) have time to double-check that report, but the point is that the time crunch led to an error in judgment.
Suggesting that it is merely laziness on the part of younger journalists that leads them to rush out stories without dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s is unfair. Of course journalists’ number-one concern should be separating fact from fiction, but Russell fails to acknowledge the reality of the many journalists’ work environments today, where broadcast and print are competing with online to break stories, newsrooms are increasingly understaffed, and those who do have jobs are keenly aware that, if they’re not fast enough, someone else will be.
But perhaps experienced freelancers will disagree with our assessment. Have you noticed a marked naivety in the newest crop of journalists? Would you go so far as to call it laziness? How do you think crowd-sourced news tips, videos, and photos should be handled? Are outlets giving their journalists enough time to do their jobs?
Photo by Simon Carrasco (a.k.a. NeitherFanboy) via Flickr.