Define “news”

NYTimes front page scan

My undergrad coursework included both graphic design and journalism. I slogged through Senior Editing and First Amendment Law classes with many who longed to do “real journalism.” With them, I developed a rather high regard for the role of journalism and free speech in a democratic society. Someone has to make sure that promises are kept and rules are followed. A judicial system is part of the checks and balances, but so is a free press.

With any freedom, there comes responsibility. Responsibility in journalism implies (at least in my head) that you’ll check your facts and quote people accurately and in context. It implies a level of disconnection. I learned early on that some subjects were too close to my heart for me to be objective enough to trust myself to write a news report. Journalists must remain, for the greatest extent, an uninvolved observer.

Today, with budget cuts and a whole lot of people carrying communication, publication and distribution devices in their pockets, news outlets have changed the rules. News sites have added blog options and, from what I’ve observed, MOST people writing on those blogs are writing editorial and not news. I’ve also experienced that many who read these articles associate them with the banner source and think they are reading articles by responsible journalists. They might be, but very often they are not.

Drives me crazy, I do confess.

I’m not against the amateur reporter. I fully support the new every-person a reporter/observer. We just need to listen to their reports as what they are and not what they would have had to have been to get to us in within-my-lifetime past.

Maybe those of us who consume news must—more than ever before—be the ones who are responsible. We must check facts and sources before passing anything along as news.

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