Actual Agenda of Journalists Is as Obvious as a Front Page

By Clark, Mike | The Florida Times Union, December 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

Actual Agenda of Journalists Is as Obvious as a Front Page


Clark, Mike, The Florida Times Union


It's time to consider some interesting observations on the state of journalism.

Leslie Heilbrunn in Brill's Content: "To reporters, empathy is a tool to be used in service of gathering information. Even if reporters honestly sympathize with the person they're covering, their loyalty is to the story, not to the person."

My comment: I wish everyone with conspiracy theories about the news media would remember that statement. The story is the agenda. Once a reporter gets too close to a news source, that's a conflict of interest, because it jeopardizes the story.

Charles Madigan, Chicago Tribune senior writer: "There are compelling reasons for aggression in journalism. Reporters don't have subpoenas. They carry no authority other than the gravitas attached to the pursuit of truth. Sometimes you have to push hard for answers, if for no other reason than to expose and underline the dishonesty of the character being questioned."

My comment: Madigan was responding to the criticism received by NBC reporter Jim Gray, whose persistent questioning of baseball star Pete Rose was seen as disrespectful. Gray's only goal as a journalist is to obtain a good answer from Rose. His job is not to be a public relations tool of Rose, major league baseball or the sponsor of the show.

Author and Yale law professor Stephen Carter in the Columbia Journalism Review: "I find the claim that the press is out of touch with the American people neither new nor particularly interesting. In fact, it strikes me that being out of touch is part of the job of the press. The press, being vested with the First Amendment freedom, is invested with a certain responsibility -- not to give the American people what they want. The Constitution is useful only if the press is going to set itself up to give people what they need rather than what they want. Which means the exercise of editorial judgment."

My comment: A newspaper should have a mixture of what people want and what they need. Newspapers have the burden and the duty of leadership. …

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