There have been a couple of news items recently that, as a former journalist, have really annoyed me. I have been gone from the other side of the “media divide” for almost two decades now and it seems that journalistic integrity has become something of a novelty, at least for a few.
First, a web site in India reports that President Obama’s trip to Mumbai is costing $200 million per day. On its face that sounds more than absurd, but totally unbelievable, yet Eric Bolling on Fox Business News and other media picked up the story. I have yet to see anyone produce an actual cost for the president’s trip, but I think that I would verify the amount before I ran with it, and I would think common sense would tell ANYONE that it JUST COULDN’T be that much!
Anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn’t be the first person to jump to President Obama’s defense, but COME ON; $200 million A DAY?
We were always taught in journalism school to check our facts and VERIFY EVERYTHING before reporting. I also went to journalism school before there was an Internet, so the paradigm has changed significantly. Maybe they’re teaching something different here in 2010.
I think back to CBS News and Dan Rather reporting, as fact, information about George W. Bush’s military service record only to find that the documents from which Rather reported information were fakes.
Then there were the erroneous reports by Pierre Salinger, a very respected journalist, of TWA Flight 800 being shot down by a missile over the Atlantic Ocean in the 1990s. Salinger believed and reported on information (later discredited) that was circulating via email and on internet postings.
We could probably assemble volumes on journalists who failed to check facts, or worse yet, totally ignored them in the interest of their own agenda.
That brings me to a related note; there is the issue of journalists contributing to political candidates. In journalism school we were taught that we should not provide monetary support to candidates on whom we reported or offered comment, yet commentator Keith Olbermann was suspended from MSNBC for doing just that.
Bravo to MSNBC for standing up for what is right, but I suspect Olbermann isn’t the only such offender in the media (though I have no specific knowledge of others.) I wish every network would hold their news staff members to the same standards and take action against every offender.
I’m not holding my breath because it looks to me as if the rules of journalism have changed … and that’s a shame.
I wonder what Walter Cronkite, Ralph McGill or Henry W. Grady would say about all this?