Blurring the Lines Hurts Journalism

By Lehrer, Jim | Nieman Reports, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Blurring the Lines Hurts Journalism


Lehrer, Jim, Nieman Reports


My message has to do with journalism. It has to do with why, according to the polls, we are now down there with the lawyers, the Congress and the child pornographers in the public's respect and esteem. There's a long list of reasons, most of them obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. Former New York Times columnist Russell Baker has been paying attention: "Later, in one of those comically solemn conclaves at which journalists ponder the philosophy of their trade and eat high on the expense account, the news industry will struggle to understand the great media meltdown of 1998. If I am asked to contribute a monograph, it will tend toward the theory that something akin to road rage occurred in the Washington press corps. This produced actions that were variously foolish, shameful, dangerous to American democracy, and destructive for the reputation of the news industry."

My monograph would begin with the additional conclusion that journalism, as practiced by,some, has become akin to professional wrestling--something to watch rather than to believe. One of the reasons is the savagery that's become part and parcel of the so-called new journalism. It is marked by predatory stake-outs, brutally coarse invasions of privacy, talk show shouting and violence, no-source reporting, and other popular techniques. Another reason is something I call the new arrogance. The fact that some in my line of work have developed an approach in words, sneers and body language that says loud and clear: Only the journalists of America are pure enough to judge others. And judge we must. Because God really did die in the 1960's, and the journalists of America must take up the slack because there are no others who can, no others out there who are pure enough to do it.

Another reason could be our new problems with entertainment. Garrison Keillor spoke of it a couple of years ago at a big dinner of radio-TV journalists and semi-journalists. He warned about the danger of trying to be fascinating rather than just informing. And trying to be fascinating has resulted in some confusing personnel moves.

Jim Squires, former editor of The Chicago Tribune, wrote about this recently: "News events spawn new celebrities, who show up at a later event with a microphone, pretending to practice the craft of journalism. Actors, comedians, politicians, lawyers, infamous criminals--and some who fit all five categories--now regularly masquerade as reporters on newscasts and talk shows. Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy and Clinton White House political adviser George Stephanopoulos are both now widely considered to be journalists. Former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson go from being story subject one month to storyteller the next. Lawyer Johnnie Cochran may be on television standing beside a famous defendant one day and on another interviewing the same defendant from behind an anchor desk. Worse, many of the people signing the paychecks of those pretenders and making the programming decisions can't see any difference between real news and celebrity news programming.

On my list, the most serious reason for the credibility problem is the blurring of the lines among the three basic types of serious journalism: straight reporting, analysis and opinion. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blurring the Lines Hurts Journalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.