Journalism in the 21st century, editing and ethics- pt. 1

Editor’s Note: This is part 1 in a 3-part series.

One of the things I’ve tried to do with this blog so far, and one of the things I will continue to do is to critique the state of journalism and discuss what it means to be a journalist in the 21st century, along with media ethics and editing.

In order to establish what it means to be a journalist in the 21st century, we must first discuss what it means to be a journalist. Obviously, we think of journalists as highly trained and objective, working for an official media company. However, Twitter, Facebook and blogging have changed that. Community Infrastructure Theory (CIT) states that people want to know what’s going on around them, and communities only exist because the media in the communities is a reflection of the community. In other words, there’s a symbiotic relationship between the community and the media: the community feeds the media, the media feeds the community. Given CIT, we are all journalists because of Twitter and Facebook. Why do you have the Facebook friends you do? Why do you follow certain Tweeps (Twitter peeps)? You like their personality and you want to know what’s going on in their lives. In other words, CIT.

Journalists are supposed to write at an 8th grade level. This is part of the “dumbing down of America.” I believe that the Associated Press should change its rules and have journalists write at a high school or college level, leaving Twitter-, Facebook- or blog-oriented journalists to write at an 8th grade level. If there’s a word or phrase you don’t understand, use a dictionary. This would do two things: differentiate between actual and amateur journalists and it helps stop the “dumbing down of America.”

Journalists are supposed to “follow the story.” In my first post, I stated that Rachel Maddow is my favorite journalist for doing so. She is one of the few journalists who are willing to cover a story to the nth degree and dig deeper. Even the New York Times, the godsend of journalism, failed to do so this week.

Journalists are also fact-checkers. When politicians spew their views, some of it is fact-free. Journalists should research who they interview, what that person does and some basic information about the case. Journalists should not do this, this, this, or anything similar.

Remember when blogging began? Remember all of the “blogging will kill journalism” threats? Remember all of the “bloggers will become Woodward and Bernstein?” None of that came into fruition. Yes, the Web has changed how we do journalism. However, the Web has challenged (and  killed) our ability to write investigative, in-depth stories that get the facts correct and dig deeper.

What do you think? Has the Web changed journalism? How do we regain our ability to write in-depth, investigative pieces in the Twitter era? Should journalists write using a higher-level vocabulary?


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