Sunday, October 18, 2015

There is a Little Bit of You in the Stories You Cover.

Eben George

Journalism is in the midst of a slow transition into the digital age. The entire landscape of the media world has change with the arrival of the Internet, not only forever changing how we consume information, but also the very nature in which it is produced.

One of the most impacted aspects of the journalism profession in the digital era is the sense of objectivity. As journalists we are suppose to the report the facts, free from our own bias and personal experiences. That being said, the sad truth is that this is impossible. There never has been a truly objective reporter and there never will be.

With the advancement in technology, particularly in communication technologies we all have the required tools and resources to not only consume the news and information we find, but to also produce it ourselves. The term "citizen journalism"gets thrown around a lot. The profession of journalism is changing rapidly. Now anyone that is literate, has a conscious mind, internet access, some form of device and a love for prose can become as widely read as popular syndicated columnist reaching millions of readers worldwide that are just a click or keystroke away.

A man in Syria uses his phone to record his accounts of a fire burning in the streets./  Gigaom

In today’s digital world, many prominent reporters on the web are bloggers. These bloggers are a brand of one. Compared to someone working for a more traditional news outlet, a blogger does not have to worry about maintaining the image and brand of a publication, the ownership, or the editorial philosophy of the publication they work for. These bloggers are lone storytellers, often working as freelance writers that only have their own image and brand to promote or destroy.

Journalists working for legacy outlets such as: The New York Times, The Washington Post, or Chicago Tribune benefit from a long-standing sense of trust. These iconic brands have established relationships with their audiences over the course of decades through quality reporting.  A writer’s name appearing in a byline for one of these storied publications instantly gives them creditability. Bloggers do not have such benefits.

In order to build a relationship with their readers and a sense of credibility, bloggers often use anecdotal accounts of their own experiences and personal background.

“Journalists, like other human beings, have friends, families and personal experiences that shape the way we see the world. Our backgrounds influence the questions we ask and the types of stories we like to tell.” Meg Heckman said.

Our experiences and interactions with people and the world around us shape us as a person. They influence the way we perceive the happenings around us and subsequently how we cover the stories we encounter. No person shares the same experiences with someone else. We all view the world through a different lens and we all speak with a different voice.

“I’ve inched toward the idea that if we’re transparent about our biases, we’re more credible than if we pretend we don’t have any biases,” said Sue Burzynski Bullard, an associate professor in the College of Journalism and MassCommunications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Even though being subjective and openly sharing your biases has never really been fully embraced in journalism it does not mean it will not be in the years to come. With the advent the Internet there has never been such a wide plethora of voices and perspectives available for news consumption. The ultimate goal of any journalist will always be truth. Utilizing the varied perspectives and unique experiences from a more subjective form of news would expose the audience to the wider scope of the story and would aid us in meeting our ethical obligation to give light to all sides of the story. In turn, this could lead us to a more objective truth than ever before. 

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