Truth and journalism

Truth lies at the heart of journalism, but the definition of truth has been fluid throughout history as journalists and other people gained a better understanding of what components are necessary to present information accurately. The conception of what is considered journalistic truth has evolved from presenting “fair and balanced” opinions in articles to presenting an “accurate” story through verification. Thus, thoroughly fact-checking articles to ensure the accuracy of stories is inherently jeopardized through modern society’s emphasis on instantaneous news production, the growing competition for a shrinking readership and editorial pressure to break stories.

For instance, the infamous 2000 election, in which the media incorrectly reported that Al Gore won the election, acts as a prime example of how accuracy can be compromised when news is reported without knowing all the facts and weighing the ethics. The Voter News Service released that Gore had won based off of exit polls in Florida, an important swing state, but voting was still open in Central Time and Pacific Standard Time. Suggs and Stone (2011) said, “Their [the media] rush to get information on air turned out to be a mistake that would cost the media a lot of credibility” (p. 260). The media compromised the validity of the election because many people chose not to go vote after the release of who won the election, according to a study done by Yale University. In this situation, journalists should have taken more time to consider the ethical dilemma before breaking this story because the decision to release this erroneous information about a presidential race that was too close to call influenced the presidential election. Suggs and Stone (2011) said, “Complete accuracy is needed before information is presented to the public. And that’s simply not the case here. News and truth need to be synonymous” (p. 262). Accurate information is useful to the public. Incorrect information is not. The public will always remember who got a story wrong, and the public will rarely remember who broke a story first.

Somewhat similarly in the “Killian Memo Scandal,” Mary Mapes received documents, which alleged that George W. Bush received special treatment during his time at the Texas Air National Guard. She verified the documents to the best of her ability, but she faced editorial pressure to release the story in a matter of days rather than weeks. She conceded, and the documents turned out to be falsified. This ultimately resulted in her getting fired along with many other people who worked with her on this story. Jackson and Coleman said (2008), “Mapes would later write, ‘I was uncomfortable with the script and, in retrospect, I should have done something I’d never done at work before. I should have said ‘No’” (p. 57).

In conclusion, fast-paced information distribution should be secondary to the need to verify the facts of a story and consider any ethical dilemmas that a story may present. The public turns to journalists for vital information about what is happening in the world. The crucial role that journalism plays in democratic societies is jeopardized when stories are released with major fact errors because the inaccurate information that is presented in articles causes the public to doubt the capabilities of journalists to present the truth.

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My take on social media as a communications major

The rise of social media has revolutionized communication giving anyone with Internet access the capability to create and curate content. As a journalism major with a specific concentration in online and public interest communication, social media platforms are integrated into the majority of my classes along with studying how people communicate through the Internet.

As a result, I am almost constantly behind a screen, writing, reading or editing. One of the major criticisms of our generation is that our obsession with our online appearance fueled by the capability to share anything and everything online contributes to a lack of “presentness” in life.

Another common criticism of the millennial generation is how their obsession with social media fuels their narcissism through the vapid gratification that social media offers via “likes.” Conversely, studies have shown that social media can also cause others (i.e. lonely people) anxiety as they are exposed to a social community of their peers, which they are excluded from.

Although I personally hold a certain reverence for social media because I have seen how it connects the world and how it can help change the world, I am aware of the limitations of these benefits.

For example, the ALS “ice bucket challenge” that was the most successful charitable challenge that went viral on social media in summer 2014 can act as an example of how social media can act as a double-edged sword.

Pros:

  • More than a million challenge videos were posted online, which increased awareness of this rare and dibilitating disease.
  • Over $50 million was raised, as compared to the $2.2 million that was raised last year.
  • The challenge was humorous and engaging, which actively encouraged more people to participate in it.

 

Cons:

  • As Arielle Pardes from Vice said: “It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.”
  • Narcissism ultimately fueled the participation.
  • Brian Carney asks if the “pretend suffering” of the ice bucket challenge is really the best way to help people suffering of ALS and encourage people to participate in charity.

 

This viral charitable challenge sparked a great deal of dialogue not only about ALS, but also a discussion about the ethics of whether it matters why people choose to give. Can something be considered bad when it does so much good?

This is parallel to my thoughts about social media.

Social media connects the world, but it does so at a cost. Social media has brought the rise of citizen journalism, immediate access to information, free advertising platform for businesses, etc.

Social media also causes the rapid dispersion of false information. There is a very crowded chatter on social media that is difficult to sift through at many times. Free advertising on social media is somewhat debatable due to the implementation of Facebook’s new algorithm, which makes it more difficult for Facebook pages to make it on people’s news feeds without many “likes” and the success of sponsored posts.

In addition, social media only connects parts of the world that have access to Wifi or don’t have government regulations on communication that restrict access to different platforms of social media.

As much as I am passionate about communications on the Internet and how much good it does, I think it is important to understand the inherent limitations of it. It can take away from my life at times. It can add to my life at times.

It’s all about balance and understanding.

 

 

How I chose my major

I chose my major the way most college students do—a whim.

One of my assignments for my Art History class was to attend a lecture at the Harn and then write a report about it. I loathed the concept of it because it would inconvenience me.  I would have to take a 30 minute bus ride and attend a lecture on one of the very few and far fall days in Gainesville, Florida.

It didn’t particularly surprise me when I enjoyed it. I use to dread anything that was forced upon me outside my own accord.

Almost instantly, I regretted sitting in the back. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but there is something undeniably engaging about listening to someone else’s story.

I can remember wanting to ask questions, but a combination of fear and uncertainty kept me silent.

When I got home, I began writing only stopping to look at my notes.

I knew that I liked writing, or at least that I found writing to be profoundly preferable to math. But I had never told someone’s story. I had written papers. I had written book reports. But I hadn’t written a story yet.

I was enamored with the cathartic-like experience of telling someone else’s story.

So I decided to change my major to journalism without any real knowledge of the profession. I figured as a prior philosophy major, I didn’t have much to lose. (Except maybe the debilitating debt of law school.)

And journalism just so happened to be the perfect major for me. Now, I am not afraid to ask questions. I love that I am constantly learning. I even don’t mind the homework.

Some people find themselves in college through clubs or experiences. I found mine through my major. Changing my major opened up the floodgate of passion followed by opportunities for myself.

 

I will run a half marathon before I graduate, even if it kills me.

I ran two miles today for the first time in two years.

Somehow through the heaving of my breathing, I decided that I will run a half marathon before I graduate, even if it kills me. (Even if I get last place.)

I have been brainstorming ideas for a New Year’s Resolution recently because I have never done one before. I only have a year and a half of college left, I’m nearly 21 years old, and I can feel real adulthood biting at my ankles (as I slowly try to run away). Some good ol’ New Year’s Resolutions could do me some good. Afterall, I have discovered that I work best when I have specific, challenging goals outlined for myself.

Since it is December already, I figured that I might as well start today because I do have a long way to go (pun intended).

So I’m starting this new category for my blog, called “My Life,” and in it I will be posting about some goals that I will be setting for myself prior to my graduation.

I would love to hear some tips from people who have gone the “couch potato” to half marathon route or experienced runners.

Covering Islam by Edward Said Book Review

Edward W. Said is a well-known Palestinian intellectual who wrote Covering Islam during the 1980s after the Iranian Revolution. This book was the third in a series that sought to critically analyze the West’s understanding of itself and Islam. Covering Islam had three different parts: Islam as News, The Iran Story and Knowledge and Power. Although this book is over 30 years old, Covering Islam is relevant as ever because the perception of Islam is still at the mercy of the media.

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War Stories by Mark Pedelty Book Review

Journalism plays a pivotal role in war. During the Vietnam War, the American public became disillusioned with the war after foreign correspondents exposed the human rights violations and human cost of the war through reporting and photojournalism. As a result, war grown into a battle of public relations due to the influence of public opinion by war reporting. The war in El Salvador lasted about 12 years, and the government sought to control the flow of information from foreign correspondents in El Salvador through a system of salvoconducto (safe conduct) that prevented journalists from entering into areas the government deemed “unsafe.” This was one of the many obstacles that foreign correspondents in El Salvador faced as they tried to report the truth as accurately as possible. In War Stories, Mark Pedelty, an anthropologist, studied the practices and methods of foreign correspondents in El Salvador and provided a critical commentary on the shortcomings of the reporting done in El Salvador during the war.

Somewhat ironically Mark Pedelty comes to very many definitive conclusions throughout the book. Pedelty is an anthropologist, but as an anthropologist, one is suppose to observe without judgement. He often labeled or categorized different aspects of the culture of foreign correspondents throughout the book which prevents the readers from drawing their own conclusions from his observations. Instead Pedelty asserts this is what happened. This is what it means. Also this is somewhat ironic because the American journalists that he is studying draw no conclusions in their stories in order to remain objective, one of the prevalent guiding goals of American journalism.  Continue reading →