Citizen Journalism versus Traditional Journalism...Where can you find the truth?
With the election (finally) just one day away, the entire world currently is experiencing whiplash from the fever pitch of media reports, SNL skits, blogs, YouTube videos, press releases and podcasts. On some days each campaign garners up thousands of unique pieces of coverage. As a PR professional, it would be a scary thought pulling together either candidates' clipbook.
All this coverage got me thinking one morning as I drove into the office. How much of the coverage is based on actual fact and who can we really believe? Are any news sources reporting nothing but the facts and remaining unbiased anymore? Lately some networks have been taking the heat for leaning far-right or far-left. Recently Fox News was under fire for not living up to the tag line - "We report. You decide." and in turn caused a flurry of protestors to descend on their NYC studios. It's also evident that while they promote themselves as mainstream media, MSNBC and CNN clearly lean more left as proof by some of their on-air personalities like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
It's been said recently that most 18-35 year olds feel they are getting more truth from the Colbert Report and the Daily Show than from any other news source. In a time when most bloggers are calling themselves journalists and pundits and analysts are calling themselves on-air personalities, it's no wonder people are confused on just who to take direction from. I realize that citizen journalism is "what's happening," but what's happening with traditional reporting? Will it eventually just go away? Will Debbie, my next door neighbor (who is nice enough) be delivering me my evening news? Will folks like Charles Gibson, Anne Curry or Brian Williams (who by the way doesn't exactly vent in his Daily Nightly blog, but he does often give his readers an idea of what's on his mind) just eventually evaporate and succumb to the inevitable....that "everyday folks" are better at delivering the news?
The problem is this..."folks" aren't delivering the news in an unbiased fashion, as traditional journalism requires. They are delivering their opinions and this is where that blurry line comes into play...if there is a line.
Just last week Barbara West, the health reporter for WFTV Orlando interviewed democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden. What does a health reporter know about Politics? It seems she knows plenty, since her husband is a media consultant for the Republican National Committee. But is that unbiased reporting? Were her questions fair and balanced?
So as mainstream media expands and allows contributors to be the everyday reader, I feel there will be many challenges on whether to shift the traditional lines between objective reporting and opinion. Will readers continue to buy articles written by professionals with a completely objective point of view? Will anyone sit through a half-hour newscast invented back when families like mine used to sit around their kitchen table and watch the tiny black-and-white screen with anticipation while they passed the evening dinner around? Or is interactive, opinionated and personal the way in which my children will be raised to take in the news and will this format even allow for them to form their own opinions?
So the big question is are there any news organizations that can be trusted to remain neutral and report only the hard facts? Of course there are. We deal with them each and every day on behalf of our clients. It's our duty to engage the media with factual pitches and it is their duty to report on it. But I can't help but wonder when the day will come when it's not the facts they want, but personality, flair and opinion....because after all, isn't that what sells? What do you think?