Councils chill hard-hitting journalism.* Don't cave to cynicism and public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most . Give communities the news they need.
"I don't think there's any profession today or occupation that spends more time looking at its own navel than we do."
- Walter Cronkite Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (born November 4 1916) is a retired iconic American broadcast journalist, best known as anchorman for The CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). discussing his book A Reporter's Life at the Media Studies Center, February 4, 1997
Ever since human beings first laid eyes on newsprint newsprint
low grade paper used for newspapers. Old newspapers are fed to cattle as an alternative roughage and may occasionally be ingested by dogs. Significant amounts of lead are accumulated in tissues; no cases of poisoning have been recorded in cattle, though it has been , journalism has had critics. But the profession's most persistent pundits seem to be its own practitioners.
We, in media, do a lot of soul-searching, self-analysis, and self-flagellation. That's understandable, given the probing, questioning nature of news-gatherers and considering the noble ideals at journalism's core.
The most notable example is the Minnesota News Council. Established in 1971, the council calls itself "a moral force for fairness." Proponents of this approach say it makes news outlets more accountable and in doing so, bolsters public trust in the media. The Minnesota News Council touts the following benefits to participating news organizations:
* Being perceived by the public as human and open to criticism, rather than as aloof, defensive, and arrogant.
* Having an opportunity to argue forcefully, outside one's own pages or air time, that one has reported aggressively in the public interest, and helping the public understand media's values and practices.
It sounds great, but unfortunately this approach isn't about journalism - it's about public relations.
Most polls say that the public is (please forgive the slang) dissing the media. Readers/viewers are disinterested Free from bias, prejudice, or partiality.
A disinterested witness is one who has no interest in the case at bar, or matter in issue, and is legally competent to give testimony. , distrustful dis·trust·ful
Feeling or showing doubt.
dis·trust , and disappointed in the media. So from "public journalism Public journalism may mean:
Something currently popular; a trend or fashion.
But the fact is, despite the polls, the public hardly gets up in arms armed for war; in a state of hostility.
See also: Arms over the state of journalism. Sure, ratings and circulation figures have fallen, but most people say that's because they don't have time to watch the news or read the newspaper.
That's still troubling. However, public relations and marketing won't bring people back. A return to delivering relevant, useful news might.
And sure, when asked, the public says it doesn't like/trust/believe the media. But when asked, the public also doesn't like/trust/believe the government, the police, the educational system, the judicial system, and the list goes on. These are cynical times.
People with genuine complaints about news stories already have effective means to express themselves. The best are usually the most simple: If you have a complaint about a reporter's story, call his/her boss. Write a letter to the editor, be a guest columnist, or put a letter in a TV station's public file.
If you still aren't satisfied, wage a boycott, organize a picket, or gather petitions. File a complaint with the FCC (1) (Federal Communications Commission, Washington, DC, www.fcc.gov) The U.S. government agency that regulates interstate and international communications including wire, cable, radio, TV and satellite. The FCC was created under the U.S. . Take them to court. You don't need a news council to get the media's attention.
News councils are at best unnecessary - and at worst downright scary. They give the public another way to turn up the heat on a news outlet, but the price is another chill on the kind of hard-hitting journalism that tends to draw fire. It's a disturbing step toward censorship.
The problem with journalism today isn't a lack of public relations, but rather the profession's growing reliance on it.
Let's stop pandering, placating pla·cate
tr.v. pla·cat·ed, pla·cat·ing, pla·cates
To allay the anger of, especially by making concessions; appease. See Synonyms at pacify. , and pondering pon·der
v. pon·dered, pon·der·ing, pon·ders
To weigh in the mind with thoroughness and care.
To reflect or consider with thoroughness and care. what readers/viewers want, and return to giving them the kind of no-holds-barred journalism that our communities need. Let's start removing the p.r./marketing pressures that keep journalists from doing the kind of work that investigates, uncovers, and inspires . . . not erecting more obstacles like news councils.
Vince Robinson is managing editor at WRTV-6 in Indianapolis.