President Trump Misses The Boat On ‘Truth In Journalism’

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-12-04-31-pmPresident Donald Trump, the forty fifth in succession to the executive office of The United States Of America,  continued his unassuaging, relentless attack on the news media.

A FEW DAYS AGO, I CALLED THE FAKE NEWS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE AND THEY ARE, THEY ARE THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. THEY HAVE NO SOURCES, THEY JUST MAKE THEM UP WHEN THERE ARE NONE.-

President Donald Trump

He beat the drum of dissidence and mockery. He chose to intensify the misunderstanding of what the press’s job is. First of all, let’s get a few things explained in simple english. You need to understand what the press is and what their job calls for before you dismiss them.

Good journalism has 5 keys:

Key 1. Always understand what journalism is.

Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities. Journalism can be distinguished from other activities and products by certain identifiable characteristics and practices. These elements not only separate journalism from other forms of communication, they are what make it indispensable to democratic societies. History reveals that the more democratic a society, the more news and information it tends to have.

Key 2- Understand how a reporter creates a story.

When I was in school I was taught the acronym F.A.C.T.  This was the primer to my journalism class. Fast, accurate concise truth was your focal point on all the stories you submitted to your professor. Newscasters in our current condition report stories that have a short lifespan. The public’s intake of  content has changed from the old days.  Reporters  have been tasked with quick succinct soundbites because social media has changed the speed of the delivery. You have to understand what the story is and deliver it quickly. This creates challenges. Yet, when a story is deeply fleshed out you see more under the skin.

Key 3- Verification employs a mix of skills that are used

The reporter must  use resourcefulness, persistence, skepticism and skill. They must cultivate  their sources’ knowledge, reliability and honesty, and the number, variety and reliability of sources. In addition, they have to acquire documentation. In this digital age screenshots, jpegs and emails have become ‘must gets’.

Key 4- They really do strive to get it right.

Journalists often describe the essence of their work as finding and presenting “the facts” and also “the truth about the facts.” There are three lynch pins to this. They are universally understood as transparency, humility, and originality. Transparency means show your work so readers can decide for themselves why they should believe it. The reporter provides information in such a way that people can assess it and then make up their own minds what to think. When the facts say it quacks, has feathers and wobbles. You know it’s a duck. Humility allows us to keep an open mind. Simply put,  we listen to all sides of the story. Originality means you just have to do the work. You have to read the transcripts, view the movie or tv show.  That does not mean that talking points that are universally shared are any less original.   Much of the time media portals are chasing a story after it has broken on social media.

Key 5- Protection of sources is necessary.

Quotes are mere words. Good stories, however, capture the meaning behind the words. Good stories often rely on being able to build relationships with people who have real stories to tell but live in fear of retribution for talking. The media depend to a large extent on members of the public for the supply of information of public interest. Most of the time, these sources are more than happy to be quoted in the newspaper or on the television. But occasionally, citizens come forward with information of a secret or highly sensitive nature.  They believe such information – relating for example to corruption, misgovernment or the activities of organized criminals – should be made known to the general public, to expose wrongdoing or to stimulate public debate on the subject. When this happens, anonymity is often a precondition for the source’s willingness to speak, out of fear for retaliation if his or her name were made public. Protection of journalistic sources is one of the basic conditions for press freedom. Without such protection, sources may be deterred from assisting the press in informing the public on matters of public interest. As a result the vital public-watchdog role of the press may be undermined and the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected.

The unmitigated attack of the press from the executive office is unconscionable. It is paramount to a horse and pony show that would and is expected from entertainers when a film critic pans a movie.

Here are some facts for the current seated President to understand.

  • Public criticism from others can be difficult to take. It can be difficult to understand, but the fact that the public at large has an outcry  IS A STORY. Protesters in the numbers we have seen cannot and should not be ignored.
  • Coining and pushing  the phase ‘fake news’ is reprehensible and below the executive office.  It playground bullying language.
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