Monday, September 30, 2013

Accountability Journalism: A Professional's Perspective

Jenna Finer

Ohio University had the honor of hosting guest speaker Kathleen Caroll this week. Caroll is the highly respected executive editor and senior vice president of the Associated Press (AP), one of the world's largest and oldest news organization. If you'd like to read more about her bio, you can here. For the Bobcats who are unfamiliar with this agency, looking at one of their textbooks may ring a bell: the AP Stylebook, which is used in many of OU's journalism classes.

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Titled "The Two Most Important Questions in Journalism," Caroll's speech was interesting and moving. Personally, I had no idea about the controversies surrounding the Associated Press, as well as the journalists who work for them overseas. For example, the recent conflict that AP had with the United States Justice Department. An investigation was sought out after the AP broke a story on Al-Queda's plan to attack the US. Twenty-one of of AP's phone lines were recorded and seized. While the case is still on-going, Caroll explained the significance of the situation in regard to a very important element of journalism: accountability.


Accountability Journalism

Who is accountable and why? These are two of the five W's that journalists (and students of Scripps School of Journalism) live by.

1. Who
2. What
3. Where
4. When
5. Why

"These are the foundational questions," said Caroll. "The most important views of journalism start with something else -- how." She went on to describe how we neglect accountability journalism, and its impact on fulfilling our roles as reporters. "We ignore accountability journalism to our apparel. So how do we make this a part of our everyday work?" she asked. "Accountability journalism is something we should do every day, on every beat."

Those in the audience, including me, may have produced some uncertainty with Caroll's claim. Journalists cover issues that hold the powerful accountable, such as governments and institutions. Another tool we've learned is "watchdog journalism," which Caroll said is "important, but nothing special."

"We Never Talk About Our Sources"

Kathleen Caroll said that this is the key to The Associated Press's credibility. It contributes to their accountability, by not holding someone else accountable, but themselves. This establishes a good relationship with the news organization and their sources, which is useful for future reference with a new story. This system is probably why the AP has been around for so long; the trust built with journalists is a foundation for a successful company. Kathleen Caroll's personal triumph in her career as journalist, editor and leader is something I aspire to be one day and will continue to work toward while studying journalism.

I left the Baker auditorium with Caroll's closing remarks on my mind. When asked by a student on her desire to be an editor she replied, "Most of us who gravitate to this profession do it because we love the process..and I still like it." I admire her passion towards this field of interest, and hope that it is an area to which I can one day contribute.

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