‘Journalistic Outsourcing:’ Not the journalism I grew up with..

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It’s now almost cliche to talk about the death (or metamorphosis) of newspapers, and the evolution of journalism as a craft and profession.  Ink-stained reporters and editors used to be the true gatekeepers of information, able to amplify or suppress stories, scandals, and secrets simply by printing information or not.  This is obviously no longer the case, as Twitter, Facebook, CNN iReporters, bloggers, hobbyists–you name it–have all become some form of news agent. I am reluctant to use the term “journalist” to describe some of these actors, or “journalism” to describe what they do, because these terms are something special to me…a journalist.  I have proudly called myself a journalist after mixing in different media, paying my dues, to learn what responsibility and influence a microphone or notepad can have.  It is true many types of people can report events, but are they all journalists?  The Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride said news organizations (and their journalists) can provide needed context to information, when the role of gatekeeper has been changed or abolished.  She was specifically commenting on the ‘manifesto’ of a still-at-large LAPD “renegade cop,” but I think the observation of a market-driven change in what journalists do and are is important.

Just as journalism has been facing epic transformations, my views of the industry have soured.  It is not breaking news to say a journalist is disappointed in journalism–it is almost a honed skill to complain about the decline of quality in between the rare journalistic triumphs.  But I am ever more bruised by the realization that what I learned about journalism, and have come to identify as the ideals supposedly supported by my noble profession, may no longer hold true most of the time.  And the tasks, duties, and truly ‘noble’ parts of journalism, are often outsourced to other professions or industries, only to be reported on after-the-fact by journalists. And if journalists are not the ones doing the true journalistic work any more, then is there any reason to defend journalism as a profession?  Or just journalism as a craft practiced by anyone?

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Journalists and Playing “Hardball”

Chow
Chow
Your correspondent (center left) enjoys fruit and pastries with the French minister of immigration. (not pictured) (Photo: Aurelia Figueroa)

It has been a fascinating year as a Bosch fellow in terms of group dynamics.  I was told before the fellowship began that journalists tended to be chosen to spice the group up a bit and keep things interesting.  During Bosch meetings with policy makers, journalists, politicians, etc I didn’t really remember that I was supposed to “spice things up.” 

It just sort of happened naturally.

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Restoring Journalism

Though our time in Germany is great for seeing sights, and making personal breakthroughs (like learning to eat bananas and spaghetti: good work baby) there is a more serious reason I am here: Journalism.

I am listening and learning as much as I can about the radio system in Germany, but also on the state of journalism in general.  In the States the numbers are grim, but Germany’s problems are different, and may be tougher to solve.

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A Free and Un-obnoxious Press

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John Hancock knows what’s up. (utexas.edu)

As a journalist, I'm sure many expect me to be a diehard advocate for the freedom of the press.  One may think, "Hey, he's a member of the press.  He should want to be free."  In most cases I do press hard for press freedom (at least in my thoughts–people don't often ask my opinion on the subject) if not solely because of the added life accountability can breathe into a society.  Just by publishing a story, or airing an interview, countless numbers of people from now until the end of digital records could possibly be influenced by the reported perspective of a newsmaker.

But perhaps you caught my "…In most cases…" caveat to an otherwise noble ideal.  The founding fathers (John Hancock being one of the first advocates) knew that a free society could not flourish in its freedom until the threats of sedition and treason were lifted from those printing *relative* truths.  (The first journalists printed some pretty terrible things.)  That noble beginning aside, I'm bothered by the occasional perversion of the First Amendment by the proud, the few, the Obnoxious Journalist Crowd.

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Finding Fairness

Murrow's Way

Depending on your perspective, the “Mainstream Media” may be part of either a vast left-wing, or equally vast right-wing conspiracy.  These judgments are often based on a person’s own sense of injustice to a certain cause.  If a news outlet passes over, or offers inadequate coverage of a subject held dear, said outlet must be serving its own agenda. 

I don’t wish to defend or explain the perceived lack of neutrality of certain outlets, but in the same breath I can talk a little to what a news story should contain. 

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Journalistic Incest

Arguably one of the most important news events I’ve taken part in covering was the case of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen.  Al-Hussayen was a University of Idaho graduate student, living with his wife and children in Moscow in 2003*.

In the early morning hours of a regular day, SWAT teams and federal agents “breached” Al-Hussayen’s home, and took him into custody for alleged illicit activity of supporting anti-American overseas operations.

Ultimately Al-Hussayen was acquitted, but deported, and his family voluntarily left the states before being booted themselves. 

But within this fascinating post-September-eleventh dynamic, of which your humble correspondent was a part, bloomed a side of journalism I never knew existed: the incestuous side.

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