Media Production

Whatever Happened to Journalism?

As the debates on healthcare, military defense, Acorn, and other issues fill the news, I’m seeing more and more questionable sources cited.  I’m reminded that a couple of years ago, watching the evening “Eyewitness News” on WSOC-TV Channel 9 in Charlotte, North Carolina I heard an interesting statement from the anchor reporter. The station was covering a story in Charlotte where a small child was put in the care of three 20-something men only to have the men “get distracted,” resulting in the child eating a significant quantity of the guy’s cocaine. I guess they just kept their stash laying around on the coffee table.  Needless to say, it was a disaster for the child, who ended up in intensive care in critical condition, with the 3 men arrested on charges of endangering a child, drug charges, etc…

But the statement that was most interesting was the reporter Kim Brattain saying that they had “checked on the internet” for any information on the impact of young children ingesting cocaine and didn’t find anything.

They “checked on the internet?” Sure, the internet is useful for finding information, but when did that become the only source for journalists? Whatever happened to “we’ve contacted an expert in the field and…” Or “we’re standing by at the hospital with the child’s doctors and here’s what they said…”

I was stunned that the best their news team could do was “check on the internet.”

Well, I would never use that station as a source for news, but at least they’re honest.

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  1. I could give you multiple examples each day of this kind of journalism in local (and yes…national (gasp))  news…which is why I stopped taking them seriously a LONG time ago.

  2. That is almost as bad as the email spam from friends that claim I read it on the Internet therefore it has to be real.  Yes the Internet is the greatest repository of information we have seen that can be so readily accessed.  But for a news reporter to even think of using it as a authoritative source is quite frankly "Lazy".  All information, no matter how official it may look or sound, must be collaborated.  I remember reading the 9/11 report and seeing that during the initial moments of the crisis, no one within the government had a clue what was really happening until after the fact.  During the course of actions taken, most orders given were based on totally on-collaborated, misinformation.  I shudder to think that some if not all of the destruction could have been stopped if from the very beginning, people were well informed and had their facts straight.  How's that–I just tied bad reporting to 9/11.  I almost died laughing last night watching our local news reporter lose her place on the teleprompter and absolutly lose it…She finally apologized and they quickly moved on to another story.  Got to love live TV..Don

  3. Stop taking yourselves so seriously. The reporter was trying to provide context for the story. The fact is your audiences go to John Stewart and Stephen Colbert for news, both more credible than the average pastor. How much "reporting" legwork do your pastors do for their sermons? Most sermons are thrown together, with questionable "facts," tired illustrations and an outdated, illegal video clip to tie it all together. I'm afraid Journalists still have a leg up on our industry. 

  4. You nailed this one, Phil.  Television news churns out so much content in so little time now, producers do resort to checking information on the internet. 

    Things have changed significantly in television news since I graduated from journalism school.. mainly driven by the audience fragmented by the internet and hundreds of tv channel options. 

    I walked away from broadcasting one year ago this month.  Now I own Phase2Productions, and am working on a documentary about the Democratic Republic of Congo — to raise money for Presbyterian Missions there.  Watch for it, the premiere will likely be in Charlotte.

  5. The advent of advocacy journalism in the 1980s is what killed journalism. Very few journalists are interested in the facts unless the facts support positions that they or their editors advocate. We’ve been paying the price as a country every since.

  6. I’m not watching TV news any more. I read my local newspaper for local news, listen to NPR’s All Things Considered. I do read international news websites such as – they have an English section, too.

    I laughed when changing planes in Atlanta this week when I saw “developing stories” from the “Situation Room” on CNN when those stories are about politicians cursing and the secrets of Free Masons, a thinly veiled ad for Dan Browne’s latest book.

  7. Good article Phil, but I’m more taken with the anonymous comment above about Pastors and their shoddy work.  Wow.  That one hit me right between the eyes.  I have to admit I’ve never thought of Pastors as journalists, but I suppose in a way it’s true.  They have to do their research too.  I guess they would be their own “expert”, but attaining that status requires alot of research and work.  Whoever you are, that made that comment earlier, you’ve inspired me to work harder in my own sermon prep.  Thanks for that, and thanks for the great thoughts, Phil.

  8. Great post Phil.  This is a REAL problem.

    What Edward R. Morrow and other serious TV journalists saw and feared greatly – entertainment divisions taking over news departments – came to pass in the 60’s.  In the seventies, when consolidators began buying stations just to sell them, broadcast properties were cut to the bone – leaving production and journalistic standards out in the cold.

    The worst loss of all is credibility and authenticity.  I remember one news director telling me that credibility takes years to build up and seconds to loose.  Apparently now “getting it right” is the last thing on anyone’s mind.  “Checked the web – didn’t find anything so we moved on.”  So sad.

  9. I herd Obbama wuz born in kenya thats in afrika not AMERICA

    Television journalism is not journalism, it’s about ratings.

  10. Sadly, television journalism has become an oxymoron.

    Many years ago I heard someone say; painting is art, film is craft and television is just furniture…

    I guess McLuhan was right.

  11. I stopped believing in journalism while I was working in the newsroom of a local TV station.  A popular artist for the Comic Book hero Spider-Man was coming to visit his parents who lived in the area and was also doing a signing.  Because I was a fan of the comic and had met the artist, I volunteered to write the short (VO-SOT) piece for the weekend news producer.

    Imagine my consternation when what they read on the news that day was not what I wrote, but also patently false – calling the 20-something artist, “The Creator of Spider-Man.” Of course, anyone who know much about comics knows that Stan Lee created Spider-Man, long before this artist was born, for starters.  When I asked the producer why she changed it, she told me that they updated what I wrote, Based on what the local newspaper reported.  Needless to say, I stuck to my own newscasts from then on and trust the newspaper as much as I trusted her.

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