Good and Bad News for Reporters: Today, Anyone Can Be a Journalist

Large Group of Reporters with Cameras in Central Park Image medium_1805323291

While attending the 2012 Digital Summit in Atlanta a couple months ago, I heard one of the speakers make the point that the future of journalism is participatory.

With the rise of technology, such as cell phones that are able to record events, everyday citizens can capture news as it happens and distribute it instantly via the Internet. Think about how many times you’ve seen images on the news recently—from uprisings in the Middle East to tornadoes tearing through the heartland—that are attributed to a non-journalist who was at the right place at the right time.

So, why would having all those extra eyes, ears and equipment to capture events be bad news for some media outlets?

How about when a national reporter sets out to intentionally distort what someone says through deceptive editing, only to have the entire context made available by John Q. Citizen with a recording device.

Now, there are ways to hold dishonest reporters accountable, which no doubt is very disturbing to people like Andrea Mitchell of NBC.

After selectively editing a speech by Mitt Romney in an attempt to portray him as out of touch, a smirking Ms. Mitchell mockingly said, “It’s amazing.” But her smirk quickly disappeared when a blog site noted that NBC had doctored the video.

After exposing what she and her editing crew tried to pull off, the post quickly went viral, putting the network’s spin doctors in high gear. It turns out the joke was on Ms. Mitchell because she’d been caught in a blatant deception.

It’s amazing, all right, that a once-respected news outlet like NBC would stoop to something like this. However, it’s hardly an isolated case.

In March, NBC was caught editing the audio of George Zimmerman’s 911 call in a way that falsely portrayed him as racially profiling Trayvon Martin. Last August MSNBC’s Ed Schultz played an edited clip of then-presidential candidate Rick Perry making it sound like he was taking a racial shot at President Obama.

And these people expect us to trust them?

While this sort of behavior has been going on for a long time among some segments of the news media, the culture of “anything goes” seems to be getting worse.

In its heyday “60 Minutes” was notorious for the footage it left “on the floor” to shape a story in the way its producer wanted. Some of the savvier companies that were subject to a “60 Minutes” investigation would hire their own videographers to tape every interview of executives as a way of trying to keep Mike Wallace and Co. honest, but before the Internet was around it was a tough slug to get the word out if you were the victim of a “60 Minutes” hit piece.

Now, reporters are being held accountable by everyday citizens who can expose their shenanigans to the world with the touch of a button.

That may be bad news for unethical reporters, but it sure is good news for the rest of us.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.

photo credit: Ernst Moeksis via photopin cc

Media Bias Presents Challenges for Ad Agencies

I had to do a double take this morning when I saw a report that ABC News was going to anchor its news from inside the White House in a special June 24 prime-time push for health care reform.

The network essentially is turning programming over to the Obama Administration. Can you imagine the outcry if FOX News had done something similar during George W. Bush’s presidency?

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, this is not good news. What’s especially disturbing is the way ABC is excluding dissenting opinions. There have always been charges of media bias, but we are seeing more blatant, shameless examples of one-sided reporting than I can ever remember.

Ad agencies and other organizations that have to work with the news media need to be aware of this disturbing trend, which will only end up further damaging the reputations of places like ABC News.

When a news media outlet is no longer deemed credible or impartial, people begin seeking other sources for their information. Blogs, Twitter and other social media provide alternatives and will, I believe, become increasingly important ways in which people get and disseminate information.

Media outlets that appear to be puppets for the government will become increasingly irrelevant—and will only have themselves to blame.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Ad Agencies Beware of News Media Bias

Amateur night was on full display last week when CNN reporter Susan Roesgen, covering a tea party in Chicago, berated participants as anti-government and anti-CNN right-wing extremists. Hey, Susan, have you ever heard of the First Amendment? As unprofessional and biased as her reporting was, the most disturbing aspect to me was that she was so clearly threatened by people expressing another point of view contrary to the one she holds. So much for diversity and tolerance.

Sadly, there were many other examples of coverage on networks that was crude, demeaning and condescending. No wonder much of the news media continues to lose credibility – for a number of reporters, there’s no longer even a pretense of objectivity. Whatever happened to the days when the news media simply reported the news?  To its credit, FOX News provided fair and appropriate coverage.

My wife and I attended the tea party in Franklin, Tennessee, which police estimated drew more than a thousand people. As with other tea parties across the nation, the participants were orderly Americans expressing a legitimate point of view and using their constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and protest out-of-control government spending and expansion. Contrast the behavior at U.S. tea parties with the destructive mob in London during the recent G20 meeting.

Reporters like Susan who are threatened by free speech and so biased that they can’t cover an event without having an emotional meltdown really don’t belong in the news business. Serving as minister of propaganda for dictators such as Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro likely would be more within their comfort zones.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.