Monday, January 20, 2014

The Devil Is Sometimes In The Details

(Cartoon by Lee Judge and featured at Mc Clatchy DC.)

A friend here at the Cuckoo's Nest lent me the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review and I was quite taken by the editorial, primarily because it was the most concise statement I've ever seen of what is wrong with today's journalism.

... A more clarifying polarity than objectivity versus activism, or impartiality versus partisanship, is one that CJR’s Dean Starkman lays out starting on page 39: access versus accountability.
This, he argues, is the perennial tension that defines the field, its “Jacob and Esau, Gog and Magog.” These are two different views of journalism’s very purpose, forever in competition for status, resources, and power. These approaches require different skills, different practices, and different sources, and produce radically different representations of reality. Access journalism seeks to provide insider information from powerful institutions and people. Accountability journalism seeks to provide information about those people and institutions. Put in even shorter-hand, access reporting tells you what the powerful said, while accountability reporting tells you what they did.
[Emphasis added]

Neither form of reporting is inherently bad and both are necessary. The problem comes when one form predominates all of the time.  The result of "access reporting" at the expense of "accountability reporting" (and I believe that has been the case for years, even decades) is a major reason most of the reading public were caught so totally off guard by the mortgage/real estate crisis and the subsequent Great Depression.

We've had entirely too much of the imbalance.  We need more than stenographers for the powerful; we need (desperately) more accountability reporting.



Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Great cartoon!

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Soprano said...

You are right about how this has been going on for decades. Reagan's relationship with the press comes to mind. I believe the first time I heard the expression "courtier press" was during the Reagan administration.

8:57 AM  

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