Jan 26, 2008

Bad in parallel

Students at Lewis & Clark in Oregon start a Facebook page to out a man they believe date raped a woman.

A reporter lionizes a cop at a funeral.

Both are forms of journalism. They are hyperlocal. They are informative. They have people talking. They have people reading. They involve a specific community speaking out for itself and people seem to be listening.

And they both completely fail to be good reporting for the same reason. Sure, the former is much more destructive to the target of the post. The latter seems altogether harmless by comparison, even if we sense that it's dangerous to turn people in power into saints (even when they die).

But they both lack accuracy. The authors both fail to meet a standard that serves as the basis of good journalism and instead find gratification in being what they expect others want them to be. They both give to people what the authors believe the people will respond to without accepting the weighty responsibility of doing the work of a reporter before completing that transaction.

And from what I can tell, they are both serve as warnings about the embrace of citizen journalism at a time when newsrooms abandon their standards.

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