Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Journalists are cocky

Well, well. it seems, according to the Columbian Journalism Review and a US Gallup poll, us journalists think we are pretty snug, and have it all figured out. It seems public opinion differs.

Gallup estimates only 23 per cent of the public thinks TV reporters as having "high or very high" ethical standards. Print writers, fare out much worse, with only 21 per cent thinking of them as ethical. Yikes!

The CJR asked a four question to the public, then to journalists. Here are CJR's questions and the results.


1. In presenting the news dealing with political and social issues, do you think that news organizations deal fairly with all sides, or do they tend to favor one side?

68 per cent of the public says journalists favor one side. On the other hand, only 18 per cent of journalists think they are biased (77 per cent think they deal fairly with all sides).


2. In general, do you think news organizations are pretty independent, or are they often influenced by powerful people and organizations?

62 per cent of the public thinks news is too influenced by powerful organisations, compared to 37 per cent of journalists.

3. In general, do you think news organizations get the facts straight, or do you think that their stories and reports are often inaccurate?

Only 54 per cent of the public thinks that journalists get the facts straight. Journalists, say they are better, with 73 per cent claiming that news is accurate.

4. In general, do you think news organizations pay too much attention to good news, too much attention to bad news, or do they mostly report the kinds of stories they should be covering?

60 per cent of people do not like the focus on bad news, compared to 27 per cent of journalists who think the same.

This has led me to think: are we journalists so out of touch with reality, creating news that we forget about the real, larger picture?

Why are why so dislike and not trusted by the public?

I always think that being a journalist, I need to be fair, to get my facts straight, not take sides (not always easy in touchy situations) and respect the people I am interviewing. I had only one experience of someone telling me that she didn't trust journalists, so she wouldn't tell me certain things. I felt hurt because I was not the journalist who did her wrong, I am an entirely different person. I guess it's like politicians - a few people are crooks or liars, and all politicians are labelled the same.

It's an issue of trust and by the looks of the poll conducted by CJR, no wonder people do not think of us highly. We are cocky about what we do, like we are some all-mighty voice, telling people what is news, what to think and how to react. If there is one lesson to be learned here, is that journalists should never think themselves as gods - we are only humans showing other people what people do.

2 Comments:

Blogger Fine Young Journalist said...

I think the public view of journalists is distorted by people who have an interest in attacking the messenger. Bush doesn't want to "play the blame game," piling shame on journalists for seeking explanations for his screwups; Chomsky doesn't want anyone to trust the media because the biggest outlets are corporately owned. So if you have a political belief, you've got someone on your side saying journalists aren't to be trusted.

Our screwups tend to get a lot more publicity than other people's screwups. The New York Times has been tearing itself apart for nearly three years, exposing raw wounds any other organization would have dealt with through a quiet firing. But because everything we do is in the public eye, so is every mistake and every act of villainy. Can you imagine if every error made by a Molson or Aliant or Fairmont employee -- working on a daily deadline, often while overcoming hostility -- went out in public for everyone to see?

As for the old chestnut of bad-news-versus-good, Who doesn't wish there were less bad news in the news?

I wish the CJR would take some of the people who want more good news, sit them down to watch the news or read a newspaper, and find out which bad-news stories weren't really newsworthy.

Besides, the whole sports, arts and lifestyle sections or segments are full of good news, and business is usually 50-50. There's as much good news as you could choke back.

I very much wish I could find a link, but I can't: another fairly recent survey ran through some similar questions, then asked a question something like, "Would America be better off without the news media?" Something like 95 per cent said no.

So I wouldn't despair.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Sikander said...

1. In presenting the news dealing with political and social issues, do you think that news organizations deal fairly with all sides, or do they tend to favor one side?

68 per cent of the public says journalists favor one side. On the other hand, only 18 per cent of journalists think they are biased (77 per cent think they deal fairly with all sides).



I think this has a lot to do with people being opinionated. How many of us have written a story we thought was as balanced as it could get, just to have people complain that it wasn't balanced?

I've learned that not everyone can grasp the concept of objectivity and fairness. Many people find it very difficult to understand what it means to be unbiased, as we understand it. Thus, when a journalists is biased towards the side they're on, they consider the journalist to be fair and unbiased. But when the journalist is truly unbiased or writes something they don't like, then he/she is biased and part of a corrupt media, etc.

That's my theory.

I don't think we'll ever win this battle unless we start showing the biases the majority possesses in our work. Then, they'll think we're a good bunch of unbiased reporters.

I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm not, then I'm certainly not for winning this battle!

12:02 AM  

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