Truth vs. Truthiness

Differentiating the journalists from the entertainers

I’ve noticed at college as well as outside these fair streets that outline our campus that most people don’t know what a real journalist is, yet they are quick to criticize the media and “journalists” whose opinion they simply don’t agree with. So I’m going to throw my two cents in and try to give some insight on a watch list so you, the valued reader, can come to a better-informed decision of what a journalist is, and who specifically isn’t. Is this conceited on my part? Sure. But I’ll be referencing the book “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel to back up my claims. You can pick it up at your local USC bookstore if you wish. It ran about $7.50 used. The first important thing to know is that the truth is the most important part of journalism. Though it is a confusing principle, the easiest way to find it is the who, what, when, where, why and how. Most do this to a degree, and then spin it to fit their agenda. And that is the biggest problem we face today – the agenda-driven bias. This, though, is a journalistic malpractice that is on par with conducting major surgery without washing your mitts first. Journalists have an allegiance to their public, not to corporations and/or political agendas. It is our job to look out for the common man. The popular phrase that is referenced in the film “Inherit the Wind” says it best: “It is the duty of the newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Sadly, the comfortable own journalism right now via mega corporations. This conglomerate effect impedes another key step, verification. It is our job to verify facts through multiple sources. This doesn’t happen like it should anymore. It is a shame that most network TV journalists pick the biggest stereotypes as a means to verify facts and bend information as they see fit. All this goes into acting independent, but this doesn’t occur, as you all know. So the next time you watch Fox, MSNBC, CNN or your local station, or read the paper, or listen to the radio news, keep these things in mind. In today’s climate, it has become the citizens’ job to go through news organizations, decipher the spin and come to their own conclusions. But in all seriousness, I’m tired of people considering some folks journalists, when really they are talking heads for either the extreme left or extreme right. People like Ann Coulter, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Drudge, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh or anyone on an online exclusive Web site, or the paparazzi, are not journalists. They are entertainers who subscribe to the genre of “infotainment.” And I don’t want to come off as a “know-it-all,” though I probably do, but I think it is important for citizens that want to criticize journalism to know a little something about its true practices first. If you want to critique the press, by all means do so. It is your right, after all. But do it with knowledge, and don’t get caught in the spin cycle. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the University of South Carolina Daily Gamecock. Please send comments to [email protected]