…Without the solid grounding of journalism, good news writing, accuracy and sound interviewing skills to support the technical ability to write for blogs/web/social networking sites, the quality of that journalism will suffer and will become indistinguishable from citizen journalism.
As an American journalist raised in our free-press culture of zero tolerance for any press regulation, I have always found the British system of testing and certifying journalistic skills to be interesting. At various low points in American journalism, I’ve wondered if it might not have at least some benefits. And now that I am also part of journalistic academia, I’ve thought that I might be willing to give a leg (not an arm, because I need those to write) for some such guidelines that might prompt J-schools to realign their stuck-in-the-past curricula.
This latest report from the National Council for Training of Journalists gives me pause, however. I’m not sure how to take it. I absolutely agree that fundamental journalistic ethics and standards are fundamental regardless of whether you are doing journalism for traditional or new media. But one could also read this as as editors not giving sufficient credence to where the public actually takes its news these days.
On the one hand, for instance, there is an emphasis on interviewing skills but on the other hand apparently no account given to how many interviews these days are done through email, Twitter and Facebook rather than face to face. The point to journalistic interviewing is asking the right questions and relating the responses accurately and fairly, no matter the medium of conversation and no matter the medium of publication.
Saying traditional skills are more important than new media is really a non-sequitur. It’s like saying that keeping your wrenches clean is more important than using a hammer to pound a nail. They are not the same thing. They are not mutually exclusive. They are both important — unless you don’t understand the hammer.
What I really like in this report is the quote (above) from one of the editors surveyed. He or she hit the nail right on the head. When the public looks to the people it recognizes as journalists for what it needs from the societal process of journalism, there is something they expect from those people different than they expect from everyone else. Usually it’s in terms of accuracy, fairness, clarity and relevance. When all is said, those things are what really define society’s professional journalists.