Journalism education and tips for journalists

Friday, October 01, 2004

Philip Meyer on Journalism today: (mina anmärkningar)

Journalism used to be a craft of hunting and gathering. We looked for news, found it and delivered it. When information was scarce, the end users were so glad to get it that they didn't make much fuss about its quality.
Now they care.

Journalism, in order to survive in all of this noise, has to offer something better. It needs a more credible, highly processed product. Editing should be gaining importance relative to reporting.

Ease of use is one way to add value to information. Another way is to make it credible. And to do this, journalists need to borrow some of the tools of science.

Scientific method is designed to let us ask questions of nature without being fooled by the answer. Its objectivity is in its method, not in giving equal weight to all of the possible answers as journalists are wont to do.

Two key aspects of scientific method that journalists need to adopt are transparency and replication. A scientist tells how he or she arrived at a conclusion in enough detail so that another investigator can follow the same trail, examine the same data and get the same answer.

Investigative journalism that relies on paper trails and documented interviews can do that. CBS did the right thing when it posted its documentary evidence on the Internet. That let users who had more technical knowledge spot the anachronism in the papers' typefaces. A sole reliance on anonymous sources no longer works, although those sources still can be useful if they point an investigator to information that can be documented.

Scientific method also drives you to play devil's advocate with your data and carefully look for explanations that aren't the ones you want to hear. In a presidential-election campaign as dirty as this one, the explanation that some malicious force is trying to take advantage of you always needs to be considered.


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