More on Journalism (was RE: FW: [LINK] Open source just as
insecure as Windows)
Sat Nov 16 06:07:25 EST 2002
Thanks for your interesting and lengthy reply.
> I really get grumpy arsed when I hear or read half baked excuses for
> a lack of professionalism. Before I go any further I want to say that
> my comments are not necessarily being directed at Karen Dearn (unless
> I specifically mention otherwise) but at the argument that
> "journalists are just human so they are allowed to write what they
> want". This is akin to saying that civil engineers should be allowed
> to have a best guess at the load tolerance for bridges or a surgeon
> shouldn't be held accountable for mistakes because he or she was just
> having a bad day.
Journalists are human and therefore influenced by cultural, social and
political bias. Any reported news story contains subjective elements,
either in the story itselfe through the way it is presented, for example
by the vocabulary that is used (e.g. terrorist instead of freedom
fighter), or by the selection of the item, which is the subjective
choice of the journalist and editor. To demand stringent objectivity in
any journalistic expression, is to demand the realization of an utopian
vision. In itselfe not a bad thing to strive for, but unrealistic at
The fact is that journalists _are_ allowed to write whatever they want,
as long as they abide by the editorial restrictions put upon their work,
and legal restrictions imposed by society. A civil engineer is not
allowed to build anything without a building permit, but a journalist
requires no such license to publish. If you feel that a journalist or a
publication is not professional according to your standards there are
only a few actions you can take; vote with your wallet and not purchase
that publication in the future, pursue a legal claim against the
journalist in question, or send in a letter to the publication detailing
your views on the matter.
> Either that, or your arguing that journalism has no
> professional standards, nor should we, the audience, expect any.
There is a semantic difference between an expectation and a wish. An
expectation is something that is likely to occur. I argue that we should
not expect high levels of objectivity in news publications, because I've
come to expect a level of subjective bias, through the selection process
and the presentation of news. That is not to say that we should not wish
for more objectivity.
When we start expecting that news publications are always objective, we
can easily become victims of disinformation and distorted or biased
information. I tend to regards any news item with some scepticism, if
only to keep myselfe sane.
As I said, there are many shades of grey, and that is what we should
expect. It is my experience however that journalism in Australia is
particularily mediocre when compared to news publications in some other
countries. The Guardian in the UK, Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain,
NRC Handelsblad in Holland and the New York Times come to mind as
publications that exhibit a much higher degree of professionalism than
Australian newspapers. This is not necessarily the fault of journalists
though, but more of an indicator of the demand of the market in
Australia for quality publications.
> Personally, I strongly disagree with either sentiment - (good)
> journalism is a profession, and we should expect professional
> standards for research and output.
You're free to wish or demand anything you like. The reality may be
different though, as journalist work under a number of constraints, such
as the editorial policy of the publication, time constraints, cultural
political and social bias of themselves, their editor and their audience
et cetera. All these constraints have an effect on the journalistic
product and the level of objectivity that is achieved. Reality often
does not match the expectation.
> I don't think that it is too much
> to ask, nor should the notion be brushed off as some twisted product
> of the left wing Linux-loving intelli-mafia.
Although I equalled elements of the Linux community with ideologists,
that does not imply they are either left wing or mafialike, that is your
interpretation. Ideology is defined as a body of doctrine, myths and
beliefs that form the basis of a system, it has nothing to do with
conservative or progessive politics. Elements of the Linux community
resemble an ideologically driven group of people, that is as much driven
by myth and belief as the Microsoft marketing department.
> My initial instinct when someone does come in "all guns
> blazing" is that they are attempting to deflect attention away form
> the fact that they are unwilling or unable to provide a reasoned and
> informed response, and that is as instructive as anything else.
As far as I understand Karens experience, she was very much the victim
of the blazing guns, receiving numerous angry responses from people,
questioning her professional integrity et cetera. It is only fair that
she is given a chance to defend herselfe under such attack. It may have
been better for her to take a time-out, and polish the edges of her
defence, but who would not react somewhat bitterly to a barrage of Email
artillery attacking something she has written and questioning her
professional integrity ?
> Are you suggesting that we hold elected government officials to a
> higher professional standard than journalists?
There is an important distiction between the two professions, elected
officials represent you and me, whereas journalists represent themselves
and their publication. I believe that as a community we have an
obligation to demand extremely high ethical standards from elected
officials, because they represent us, and as a community we are
ultimately responsible for their actions and expressions. The same is
not true for a journalist, where only the journalist and its editor is
responsible for the content that is produced.
Michael, I have ignored a few paragraphs in my reply, not because I
don't find them interesting or difficult to challenge, but because of
time constraints, I'd be happy to discuss them at length at another
More information about the Link