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April 30, 2007

Mission of Journalism and Future of Journalism

To use a cliché, a wise man once told me that there is no option in journalism. The paper must come out. Some way or another, it just has to. It provides necessary and relevant information, and if it goes will be sorely missed.
People say that the newspaper is a dying industry. I say we can’t let that happen. It is too important. In this age with all the information at your fingertips, people don’t have to time or the gumption to sift through all this information, pulling out the relevant pieces. This falls on the journalists, the people who not only have the time and the skill, but are actually paid to sift through. This isn’t to say that ordinary citizens can’t or won’t do this for themselves. Journalists are aids to information. Our traditional role of gatekeepers serves an even more important role in an era with so much information.
There is a lot to be said about how today’s journalists are failing this mission. Time and financial constraints are testing the press every day. There are publishers running newspapers that have never been journalist, and only care about lessening the news hole so they can sell more advertising. They will fire the most talented reporter on the staff because they need to cut margins.
What can a journalist do in such a world? Talk about it. Fight back. I know of one woman who, upon hearing that her colleague was laid off to budget constraints, quit, leaving the newspaper with only an editor to put the paper out the next week. While this temporarily disrupts the need for the paper to get out, she took a stand. She would rather see no paper than one put together sloppily, without forethought, used only to sell ads—this will only result in the further corruption of the media in the public mind.
And newsflash: you publishers most concerned about this, the moves you make today with your papers directly affect the future of the newspaper as we know it. The less we stick to the mission of journalism, the more we devalue our work, and ourselves in turn, and that directly affects each and every newspaper’s bottom line from now until eternity.
So what and who cares? That’s right. Who cares? I do. I don’t want to see that happen. I have seen firsthand how a newspaper works in a small community—the first and only source for this information. The newspaper that upholds its integrity, that publishes that story that reports on an important advertiser or speaks bluntly about the firing of a popular coach, will continue to sell newspapers.
Where do I fit in? I wish to tell the stories that remain untold. I hope to strengthen the mainstream media with the social consciousness that it sometimes lacks, so that newspapers can tell the whole truth, not just the accepted truth. I set a high goal for myself, because I wish to better an industry that sets such lofty goals for itself—though in recent times panders too much to advertisers and audience whims. If I have to, I will single-handedly fight to save the newspaper and its ideals, no matter what form the newspaper may take in the future.

February 11, 2007

MySpace as a source? Everyone can see the Internet?

Recently, I came upon a news brief in the Pioneer Press about a Macy's employee that was giving extra discounts to friends, whenever they came into the store. The store manager noticed when this employee has an abnormally large amount of purchases discounted at 75 percent.

Initially, I was interested in the story because I used to work in retail. Then I kept reading. At the bottom of the story, the third to last paragraph, it reads:

In cyberspace, though, Collett lists 97 "friends" on his page at MySpace.com.

"Could always use more buddies," he wrote. "Oh, and as you can see, I'm dangerioulsy (sic) Man-Prety (sic) … you've been warned."

I did a double-take, did they really just quote a MySpace page in a large daily newspaper? Looking over the rest of the article, the reporter, David Hanners, sourced an affidavit written by John C. Bolt, a police officer, and also David Thomalla, the Maplewood police chief. He even talked to the spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office. There is no mention of contacting Matthrew Collett, the accused, or his lawyer. Instead, just this strange reference to Collett's MySpace page.

I found this odd for two reasons. One, at the very least, the reporter did not say that he tried to contact Collett--he very well might have, but I don't know. I only see the affadavit. And two, that the information from the MySpace page was used.

At first, this seems like an invasion of privacy, though I know it is perfectly legal, since Collett chose to put this information on the Internet. However, it still doesn't sit well with me. It is hard to validate the identity of anyone on MySpace, much less someone one needs to write a story about. Also, the information presented on MySpace is for a very different audience than for a reporter. I know it's easily accessed by the public, but it wasn't meant for that purpose.

I think it just serves as a reminder, in this share everything age, that ANYONE can see whatever you write on the internet, including this blog entry (it showed up as the second hit when I googled my name earlier). So be careful!

There may be some nosy journalist out there looking to make a fool out of you.

(And if that isn't reminder enough, check out the political cartoons from Saturday's Pioneer Press...there is another helpful reminder.)