The Definition of “Reporting”
With advances in technology happening as fast as they are, it is not surprising that truth and ethics are being debated and in some cases redefined. Especially in the industry of journalism, where the standard was that if it was in print it was considered almost sacred. Of course, this theory was flawed – “yellow journalism” and tabloid news found readership as the public showed interest – sometimes bordering on mania – to find out the most salacious bits of information about its celebrities, politicians or other high profile figures.
However, the power of the pen prevailed as it was hard to argue with someone who was holding the newspaper in their hand, pointing to the inaccurate news piece and demanding a retraction.
While the power of the pen is still mighty, one cannot ignore the availability for anyone to share information and opinion in cyberspace. The problem becomes the blurring of the two – what is factual information and what is opinion.
Being the CV Weekly publisher, I am accountable for those news items that appear in the Weekly. When one of my writers reports on a fire, a burglary or local development for example, I take responsibility that the information is accurate and fair. That is the foundation of truth in media.
While I know that there will be errors – all the fact checking in the world cannot avoid it – I will readily take responsibility and own those as well. After all, I am the one accountable.
And that is the challenge with blogging and online news sources. Who exactly is accountable for the inaccuracies that are posted “out there”?
Perhaps part of the problem is the definition of blogging. “Blog” has been described as a “personal diary,” “a daily pulpit,” “a collaborative space,” “a political soapbox,” “a breaking-news outlet,” “a collection of links,” “your own private thoughts.”
Note that none of these definitions has the term “truth” or “reporting” in it.
Understand that I am a lover of the Internet. I love that information is at my fingertips. However, I know the difference between a reliable news source and someone’s opinion. Not everyone does, however, and when something is posted or misrepresented as a news item it can cause damage.
Case in point is a recent comment by a blogger who was invited to blog about the Thieves Market on the Montrose Patch. Patch is an online service that is self-described as “a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.” The Thieves Market, a part of the Montrose Harvest Market, is going through transition right now. The Montrose Shopping Park Assn. oversees the market and is considering making changes to its Thieves Market. The vendors that make up the Thieves Market are understandably worried about the possible changes and how it affects their future.
On Nov. 6, the following was posted: “Let us not forget that Robin Goldsworthy of the Crescenta Valley Weekly is on the MSPA [Montrose Shopping Park Assn.] Board and cannot report with total freedom of press so we depend on media like the Montrose Patch to tell the Thieves Market story …”
I am not a member of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. Never was nor could I be. The association is composed of those who own a business in the Montrose Shopping Park. I was, however, part of the MSPA Events Committee, along with representatives of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, the City of Glendale, the Sparr Heights Business District Assn. and the MSPA. One of the goals of the committee was to work together to coordinate events that would complement each area and not take place at the same time – not exactly a controversial committee.
I challenge this blogger to show examples of when I could not “report with total freedom” on something.
Anyone has the right to offer an opinion, but when wrong information is presented as fact not only can it damage the person who is in the accuser’s cross-hairs, but it also undermines the validity of the hosting agency.
Until a solid hierarchy of responsibility is established regarding information on the Internet and those who host random rantings, there is more truth than I care for as quoted by Elliott Gould’s character in the recent movie “Contagion”: Blogging is [just] graffiti with punctuation.