Journalistic independence

Man, I wish I had read this chapter on Friday or Saturday morning.

I spent about 15 minutes after a journalism school tour this weekend trying to explain this very principle — journalists must maintain an independence from those they cover — to a parent. She was concerned that her child might be put in a situation in which he would feel uncomfortable because of his views on the topic; the example she used was that he would have to cover Planned Parenthood “in a positive light.” I explained fault lines, opinion sections vs. news sections and other concepts mentioned in this chapter to her, but my explanation wasn’t as nicely put as what Kovach and Rosenstiel wrote.

On another note, I enjoyed the conversation about diversity in newsrooms and what that looks like, and especially the example of how Hockenberry created this dynamic story with the help of different newsroom perspectives. As stated in the book, “The ultimate goal of newsroom diversity is to create an intellectually mixed environment where everyone holds firm to the idea of journalistic independence,” and that leads to richer coverage. I think this is important, and I believe that a lack of diversity leads to holes in coverage. For example, a friend of mine who is half-Hispanic noticed at the paper at which she interned barely wrote anything about the city’s Hispanic community. They instead wrote a lot about communities that mirrored the demographics of the staff: predominantly white and middle-class. She tried to fill that hole by pitching stories about parts of town not often covered, which, in my opinion, could only add to that paper’s value.

I also enjoyed the Andy Carvin example about “connecting with their communities to better serve them, while maintaining the independence that allows journalism an authenticator’s perspective.” This is exactly what we talk about in Participatory Journalism, and even though I’ve only been in the class for a few weeks, I think the community is a valuable resource and that it’s important to build relationships with them and foster conversation regarding the stories that we cover — and the stories we might want to look into covering.

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