Is it even ‘journalism’ anymore?
Recently I’ve criticised the state of journalism in Bermuda, which I see as currently demoralised, under-resourced and overwhelmed by PR personnel.
One particular problem resulting from this is that the journalists we still have just simply do not have the time to do their due diligence and actually indulge in journalism itself.
And by this I mean they just aren’t able to be investigating stories, asking questions and keeping key stakeholders, particularly the Government accountable, primarily by actually asking informed questions and being tenacious in chasing the answers.
To me this is exemplified by the rise of a ‘cut and paste’ journalism, where press releases are printed almost in their entirety, perhaps somewhat re-arranged, and this constitutes the whole of the article.
At best it’s a slightly creative re-ordering of something a PR person has prepared.
While that can be useful in itself for juxtaposing contradictions within a body of text, more often than not it’s just sloppy on the part of those claiming to be journalists.
An article in today’s RG illustrates this…
Bernews, which is more a platform for press releases and allows for online media generation through the comments, tends to provide the entire press releases or statements in question, fully credited. It doesn’t claim to do otherwise, unlike the RG, now our only newspaper, which is supposed to have a different model, including journalism.
By comparing stories carried between Bernews – which makes it clear it’s simply posting the press releases and allow users to comment – and the RG, which is supposed to provide a journalistic approach, one can see how much RG is relying on a ‘cut and paste’ approach to ‘journalism’.
The RG’s article in question doesn’t delve deeper into the issue in question; it doesn’t ask questions, it doesn’t answer questions. Indeed, one wonders if it can ethically be considered a novel article by the reporter due to it basically being re-organised plagiarism.
I need to stress here, I’m not attacking the reporter in question.
I’m attacking the institutional failure of journalism here, the lack of direction and maintenance of journalistic integrity, largely arising from being under-resourced and demoralised, partly arising out of the editorial and organisational instability at the RG today.
This increasing reliance on ‘cut and paste’ is a symptom of the problems of journalism today.
Due to the crucial importance of journalism in informing the people within a democracy, even ‘equal opportunity’ cut and paste journalism serves to undermine our democracy by failing to stimulate critical though or reveal new facts about the story.
This article is just one example, I need to stress that too.
With less and less media choice available to Bermudians, the increasing non-journalism should concern us all.
- A national conversation about replacing the failing economic model of journalism in Bermuda, including the potential for the public subsidising of journalism as a public good.
- The journalists at the RG need to take a stand and force management to provide them resources and support they need to actually do journalism.
- The ‘consulting editor’ needs to take a stand FOR better journalism. The buck should stop with the editor. I understand that as a ‘consulting editor’ he is in a weak position. However, failure to act is doing more harm to his credibility, and the credibility of journalism in Bermuda as a whole.
- The RG needs to make clear what their policy is regarding online comments. It’s approach so far has been arbitrary.
- The Media Council, as impotent and unstable as it is rapidly becoming, needs to take a stand against ‘cut and paste’ journalism and the decline of journalistic standards in Bermuda as a whole.
Speaking of the Media Council, it’s Code of Conduct is useful here.
Section 3(g) states:
“Media outlets must clearly distinguish for the audience the difference between advertising, advertorial and news.”
A cut and paste job of a PR statement – is that news, advertising or advertorial?