deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

Archive for May 24th, 2010

We need well-done news stories more than ever, but will we get them?

leave a comment »

The media-reform activist organization, Free Press, has set up a press-bashing site called mediaFail, offering minimal instruction about what constitutes a bad news story versus a good news story. Thus we must assume those all-knowing Internet media critics who nominate bad news stories at mediaFail have a disciplined, instructive sense of what’s good and what’s bad.

So what is a good (meaning well done) news story? My answer revolves around three important concepts: useful information people don’t know, adversarial purpose, and appropriate, meaningful context.

Eight years ago, my university’s journalism school gave an award to Tom Wicker of The New York Times. Wicker’s “In The Nation” column ran in The Times from 1966 through 1992, and his columns were sufficiently critical of Richard Nixon to earn Wicker a place on Nixon’s enemies list.

In accepting our modest award, Wicker said, “Find out what you can and tell the people what you know.”

That’s what good journalists are trained (and love) to do — find out stuff. (Other occupations, such as scientists and explorers, do that too, but journalists do it in a hurry, on deadline, hoping sources aren’t lying, and … make mistakes in doing all that.) Wicker, and journalists everywhere, get that: People need accurate information from credible sources — that’s the traditional content of good news stories. But that’s changing, it seems.
Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 24, 2010 at 8:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized