In a Thursday interview, Miller told us that the prosecution accused him of “being antagonistic to police because I was questioning their orders.” However, he said, “thats what I do. I know my rights. I know the law.”
That little bit of legal knowledge (who knows where he picked it up) deepened his coverage and brought to light a case where the police overstepped their bounds. One could learn the law on their own, but I’d argue that this is one excellent argument for journalism schools.
The national media committed a major faux pas tonight against the people of Wisconsin. With people still in line waiting to vote, all of the major national news outlets called the vote for the incumbent (AP and the Times were among the last). One commentator went so far as to talk about the science of vote prediction on election nights, lauding how well statistics can predict the outcome.
Whether or not this is true, it completely misses the fact that an early call has real potential to affect the outcome of the election. That this particular race was split by less than one percent by some polls the day before the election makes an accurate outcome even more important.
To be clear, this is not a partisan message – it is equally likely that someone could step out of line thinking “we won” or “we lost.” The news media is largely expected to objectively report the events of the day, and this puts the drive for a “scoop” ahead of our democratic process. Should one person step out of line based on these messages strikes me as an affront to our democracy.
I was fortunate enough to attend a capstone competition for an advertising class here at the J School (which I attend). The outcome of their hard work (as well as that of their instructor and some support staff) was truly remarkable.
It reminded me of something long forgot about a degree in journalism. No matter what the emphasis –news, advertising, PR, or academic– research skills rank high the core skill set. While it may not be academic, market research skills are just as valuable and just as tough to develop.
I am reminded of my own undergrad “search strategies” class, and really made me long for the classroom.
The New Republic publishes this column on the derth of fact-checking in Journalism — perhaps in light of the controversy over PolitiFact’s “lie of the year.” The author makes an appealing triangulation between decreasing budgets, shrinking staff, and avoidance of “bias,” while connecting it to the rise of organizations like PolitiFact.
The appeal [of PolitiFact] is clear: it seeks to protect the reporters from charges of bias while giving the work of political judgment and analysis a scientific aura. And, let’s be honest, it also makes the job easier for reporters who can’t be bothered to learn enough about the facts of the matter at hand to judge the issue themselves.
Cuts in newsrooms and a desire not to appear biased have led to an outsourcing of fact-checking to PolitiFact. We need more news orgs doing this work, not fewer (and not just blogs).