Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Honest Reporting OR Journalist Joke?

[UPDATE Below - Update II]

Some months ago I became intrigued with the coming together of two fairly popular blogs, Lost Coast Outpost, ie., Hank Sims, and the Readheaded Blackbelt, ie., Kym Kemp from Southern Humboldt.

The difference, if any, is minor. What is striking, however, is the advertising now displayed prominently on Kym's blog. Since Hank Sims is connected to KHUM radio and he was displaying news reports as part of the normal blog format. Kym Kemp, on the other hand, even before hooking up with Sims was beginning to post mostly local Southern Humboldt news and matters of public interest with a proliferation of police and Sheriff Department press releases. These press releases are canned accounts published online by these organizations given to the general public as accurate news. These agencies tell the public what they want them to know. This kind of one-sided, biased reporting is reprehensible when employed by the Times-Standard newspaper with salaried reporters.

The integrity and credibility of such blog reporting, or I should say LACK of integrity and credibility, was emphasized when I read the following excerpt by Glenn Greenwald in his article: “Officials say” journalism - Yet again, the American media misleads by uncritically printing unverified, false claims from the U.S. military. (Or in our case: “claims from the local police.”)
Instead, what we see here is the standard template of American media reports: in the very first paragraph, media outlets typically state as fact what are nothing more than official assertions, and then append on to the end of the paragraph the rote phrase “officials say” (standard first paragraph: A, B and C happened today, officials say“). Over and over, this is the journalistic practice that converts media institutions into little more than glorified press release outlets for the U.S. government and military. They routinely write entire articles where the narrative and storyline are shaped exclusively by unverified claims of officials. There is a protected free press precisely because institutions are needed to check and scrutinize government claims — based on the long-standing recognition that those in power tell self-serving lies, something which has happened over and over in the war in Afghanistan — not uncritically amplify them and convert them into Truth under the guise of independent reporting. 
But this “officials say” form of American journalism converts government claims into journalistic fact. In that regard, it’s not merely redundant, though it is that: who needs a media outlet to re-print government press releases, when one can just go read those press releases on one’s own? It’s worse than redundant: it launders government claims as verified fact, as though they’ve been checked and confirmed by an independent media arbiter. That’s why government officials love to “leak” falsehoods to reporters while hiding behind the shield of anonymity, rather than just themselves dissemintaing those falsehoods: not only does that practice shield them from accountability, but it masquerades their lies as “reporting.” Today’s example is just illustrative, and far from the most important: this is the model, more than any other, that shapes American journalism. [Emphasis added.]
As such, these outlets become nothing more than propaganda tools. In Kym Kemp's case, when I challenged her postings regarding Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman's reports she actively defended him, and her reporting based upon his press releases.

There is an exception I'd like to mention here that I think is rather noteworthy and that is the Humboldt Herald by Heraldo. While the Humboldt Herald occasionally publishes Press Releases the general format is far more newsworthy in it's reporting. Recently, the Humboldt Herald added two others in addition to Heraldo posting articles: Mitch and Eric Kirk. Eric Kirk has the Southern Humboldt blog, SoHum Parlance II.

The diversity in the Herald has certainly increased it's purview.  So, honest reporting or journalistic joke?

[UPDATE :: Thursday, June 21, 2012]

Interesting update to this idea of “blog reporting.” Are blogs and bloggers (people that write blog articles and post these articles on blogs) actually “blog reporters”? In other words, should they answer to a higher set of standards and priorities than the average blog opinionator or “glorified press release outlets”?

Would you say that the Humboldt Herald blog predominately “acts” like a blog news outlet? Now compare the Humboldt Herald to Eric Kirk's SoHum Parlance II. Do you get the same answers? I don't think so.

Now look at Eric's post on the Humboldt Herald for Thursday, June 21st, 2012, Drama at the Democratic Central Committee and tell me, even if it isn't by Kirk's own words as timely as he would like, a news report.

So, should these writers – bloggers be held to the “reporter” standard? Or did Eric's use of a bogus picture he says was used as an (unspoken) joke adversely affect the credibility and integrity of the Humboldt Herald? Did he move it into the blemished commonality of an opinionating blog?

[UPDATE :: Friday, June 22, 2012] 

 Upon checking the Redheaded Blackbelt blog this morning I found of the seven postings, six were nothing more than Press Releases. Over on Lost Coast Outpost it was basically the same thing.

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