The AEJMC Convention begins tomorrow in San Antonio. I’m not attending this year. I’m putting my effort into the RSA Conference scheduled for May 2006. I’ll be submitting an academic treatment of my field theory blog essay with an update about the metaphor shift from journalism as lecture to journalism as conversation.
Michelle Koidin Jaffee offers an interesting Convention preview in the San Antonio Express-News. I found this part interesting:
Meanwhile, another Annenberg survey found only 45 percent of the American public said news organizations usually get their facts straight, compared with 86 percent of journalists.
So what to do now?
Journalists must start in their own communities.
They must give the statements of readers experiencing issues as much weight as oft-quoted experts and officials, said Cole Campbell, journalism dean at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“The first step is be a lot humbler than we’re used to being and acknowledge we know less than the people we serve,” Campbell said.
Journalists must convey the message: “We honor your intelligence. We recognize you all know something about this.”
As some newspapers have done on their Web sites, more should designate spaces where community members can have real conversation and deliberation, Campbell said.
To trust a newspaper, readers must be able to see their lives and neighborhoods accurately reflected in its pages, said Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
Despite vigorous efforts to diversify newsrooms, journalists still do not adequately cover minority groups, women and certain parts of towns, Maynard said.
One problem is that many journalists live a life as transient as NBA players in the age of free agency. They therefore lack a deeper understanding of the communities they cover.
The answer, Maynard said, is to spend more time out in the communities and less in the newsroom.
“We simply don’t understand what’s important to people,” she said. “To restore the trust, we need to get past that. … It’s getting past our own points of view and getting to see things the way others see them.”
Modern journalism and journalism education just isn’t set up to connect with communities. It’s set up to shoot for the big enchiladas in Washington D.C. or New York. It’s set up to win prizes. It’s set up to rub elbows with power more than scrutinize power. It’s set up to tell the story of power more than the story of the citizen.
Want proof? You’ll find a big wad of proof in the recent issue of Quill, a publication of the Society of Professional Journalists. Pay particular attention to the article by Tom Hallman, Jr. entitled “Small-town papers can make or break a career.” The arrogance is right there in the headline (and gets worse throughout the article). “Careers,” apparently, are not located at “small-town papers.”
Want to regain trust? Then get local. Dream of a different enchilada.