Jay Rosen on why political reporting is broken.
Jay Rosen's blog is Pressthink, and he's on the journalism faculty at New York University. (He's also the former chairman of the Department.) When he critiques your coverage, people tend to pay a lot of attention. Read his detailed take down of the NPR abdication of their journalistic responsibilities over a story about abortion regulation, and his response to the "both sides are mad at us, so we got it right" thinking that passes for actual journalism:
First I’m going to tell you what happened; then I’m going to comment on it. #I set my clock radio to NPR. A week ago I woke to this report about new rules for licensing abortion clinics in Kansas. The report stood out for me as an exquisite example of that dubious genre known as “he said, she said” journalism, which I’ve been complaining about for some time. My 2009 piece attempts to explain the persistence of this form; it also gives a definition:“He said, she said” journalism means…
- There’s a public dispute.
- The dispute makes news.
- No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
- The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
- The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.