There is an annual contest at the University of Arkansas calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.
This year's was political correctness.
The winner wrote:
“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.”
I'll cop the fact that it's OK for people to bang on at their blog site about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a good result in a restaurant when the put their hard-earned on the table, just as I did the entry before this one.
Ditto for whatever else floats your faluka, just as long as it isn't presented as news presented by someone basking in the limelight of calling themselves a journalist. Sure, everyone has an opinion (some more than others), but that’s just what it is … an opinion. It’s neither right nor wrong.
News, in its purest sense, is the domain of a professional journalist (tips notwithstanding, which is where social media is a help), one who has trained (and I’m not just talking university degree or whatever) on the road and in a newsroom. Someone who has street smarts, not Sesame Street smarts, and who knows how and when to use them. One who gathers the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story and then checks and rechecks, interviews, checks again and then shapes it into a clean flowing story. One who phones sources, and one who doesn’t rely on the internet as gospel. Wikipedia is a great example. It’s a useful tool, but so is a spokeshave (yeah, look it up if you’re not sure). Wikipedia is not an authority. Sorry, it’s just not in the ballpark. For example:
Citizen journalism should not be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, which are practiced (sic … try practised) by professional journalists, or collaborative journalism, which is practiced (sic … try practised) by professional and non-professional journalists working together. Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated(sic … a professional journalist would have hyphenated this, given that it is adjectival) content.
Yep, good on you, Wikipedia, three basic mistakes, one par. An authority … not.
Crikey media commentator Margaret Simons recently wrote this:
The panels in both cities covered the same, tired old ground. The new “participatory media” and “citizen journalism” would never be Real Journalism, because Real Journalism is an Art/Craft/Profession. Real Journalism involves research and fact-checking and sub-editing. There’s a Code of Ethics. But “these people”, as bloggers get labelled, these people just sit around in their pyjamas and write whatever comes into their heads.
What’s tiring about this false dichotomy is that it compares the highest ideal of journalism with the lowest grade of personal blogging about what the cat did yesterday and — lo and behold! — they’re not the same. Gosh.
How much everyday journalism actually conforms to the high ideal? Not much. For every Walkley-nominated episode of Four Corners there’s a hundred tawdry yarns about miracle fat cures or shonky builders with a camera shoved in their face. For every investigative scoop there’s a thousand mundane little 5-paragraph yarns that merely quote what someone said at a press conference, and then quote their opponent. Or recycle a media release, putting the journo’s byline where the PR firm’s logo used to be. Or misappropriate statistics to beat up some shock-horror non-existent “crime wave”. Or either fawn or tut-tut over some “celebrity” and their antics — more often than not because that same celebrity is appearing in a TV show or movie that’s completely coincidentally owned by the journalist’s employer.
And you know, some “bloggers” actually know what they’re talking about, interview people, and link to their references to boot.
Dear Journalists, how can you spout all that stuff about “standards” and then go back to your mucky business?
Oh, that’s right. You’re a proper journalist. It’s all the others…
Actually, I know why you’re so bitter about “those bloggers”. You worked hard on that student newspaper or street rag while living in uni-student poverty, put up with the abuse of grumpy old chain-smoking subs who bawled you out over trivial spelling mistakes, put up with the unpredictable patronage of editors who promoted everyone else to A Grade but you — you endured all of that hoping that one day you’d get the plum posting. But no! The newsrooms are now being decimated, and the masthead’s adorned with photos of celebrity chefs. And bloggers — bloggers! People with no professional training are leaping into the limelight. Some of them are even being paid! How dare they!
Simons’ question “How much everyday journalism actually conforms to the high ideal?” deserves answers. Please, there are organisations other than the ABC to be nominated for Walkleys. And it seems to me that you are being dismissive of the many genuine news stories … I’m assuming this (yes, I know we should never assume) given that you made no mention of them. Little 5-paragraph yarns? You mean as opposed to large five-paragraph yarns? Sorry, that’s the sub in me. Margaret, your columns in Crikey are full of newspaper celebs; Mark Scott seems to be a perennial favourite. How long since you’ve interviewed someone on the newsroom floor, someone at the nuts-and-bolts stage of the process?
Yes, some bloggers do interview people and link to their references. So what? Do you ever read all the links to ensure that they’re on the money? Methinks not, but that’s what we should all do.
Why would a journalist be bitter about those bloggers? There is more to journalistic life than working on a student newspaper … read one and tell me where the writers on same are learning anything about balance in their reporting. And as for putting up with grumpy old chain-smoking subs who bawled you out over trivial spelling mistakes. Jesus wept. It believe it’s a form of mentoring. Help them out by pointing out their mistakes and perhaps they won’t make them again. Spelling mistakes in reporting are anything but your dismissive description is trivial. How dare you. One wrong letter in a word can cost plenty … think lawsuits, etc.
Allow me to indulge in a story about the Melbourne Herald. The deputy editor was sitting at his desk when one of the comps arrived, as he did daily, and placed that edition’s poster on a nail on the wall. “You OK with this?” asked the comp. A quick scan by the deputy and he said “Yep, thanks.”
A few minutes later the deputy glanced again at the poster and his blood ran cold. It read something like “I’m not guilty: Sincliar”.
The story goes that all the available staff chased the Herald delivery trucks throughout Melbourne to retrieve the offending poster, which they did successfully. Sinclair. Sincliar. Just a trivial mistake? I think not.
Oh, and unpredictable editors? That’s tautology.
Maybe there’s a reason why people don’t get the posting or promotion they thought they deserved. Perhaps they just weren’t up to it.
I’ve recently worked on two pieces written by people who are lecturing in journalism at the moment. Both pieces were badly written, full of stupid spelling mistakes, misused words, bad grammar … and these people are teaching others how to do it. Jesus is still reaching for the tissues.
I discussed this issue with an old journo mate recently and he came up with a great response.
"Accuracy is not pedantry; I have never been aware of Glenn McGrath bowling pedantically." Thanks Des.
Anyone who writes is not a journalist, otherwise it means that the shopping lists my mother used to write qualify her as a journalist. So too, a sign writer, a waitress who takes an order in a restaurant, a sky writer in a plane … take your pick.
I’ve heard recently a couple of high-profile ex-AFL players, both now radio and television commentators, referring to themselves as journalists. Sorry boys, an AFL media pass does not a journalist make, no matter how well you may or may not write. In the case of one of them, not particularly well
It’s all well and good to have a fantastic set of tools, aka mobile phones, laptops, iPads, whatever, but mostly the ubiquitous social media with these tools, good and all as they can be, has bred nothing but a generation of people who in the main, cannot spell (I blame shorthand on phones, Twitter, et al (et al: it means “and others”, in case you were wondering), who say things such as “yeah, no, it was good but”, who think that grammar is a parent’s parent, or people who are oblivious to other people’s presence and to the meaning of the word courtesy, and who walk aimlessly down the street reading that latest best place to buy a latte or who’s shagging who among their friends, bumping into or demanding a clear right of way.
Bloggers are called just that … bloggers. Can everyone please stop trying to elevate them beyond their station. They are not … and never will be … journalists.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.