Jody Vance

New news? – by Jody

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With so many screens, so many options, so many “self proclaimed” journalists — today we wonder: where do you turn for your NEWS?

Are you a news-hound or are you more one to consume simply “whats trending”?

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Getty Images: Johnnie Pakington

This question is vital.

If it’s all about the loudest, most viral voice — is it news?

There is no question we are seeing “the press-of-public-opinion” more-and-more become a large part of consumed information, but does it have journalistic integrity?.

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Being a member of the press is so much more than just starting a Twitter Account, Blog, or Podcast. There is a responsibility of due diligence involved — there is training involved, you learn to confirm facts through multiple sources.

Much of what is being shared, these days, as fact is simply not.

It’s unnerving.

Take, for example, the most recent onslaught of rumours/fact-void releases/viral “news” — the Clinton Email/FBI letter Twitter explosion.  It was remarkable to see the FBI release the information (so close to an election which is a massive No/No) only then to have politicians jump in on it (via social media: cue the viral response)…..Followed closely by US Big Cable, looking for ratings over facts,.

(click the links for stories, from reputable news sources, about each topic.)

Things have changed and continue to change — by how we consume. 

Do you remember when Princess Diana was killed? Of course you do…. Most remember – vividly -watching Linden Soles on CNN as he, and his newsroom, were victims of a hoax. In the pursuit of quick facts on the car accident/subsequent death of Lady Diana (– get the story here.) a “hoax” eye-witness caller made it “on air”. The excuse for the massive blunder was that “it was the Saturday night of the Labour Day Long Weekend”.  Read: “we were short staffed for a big story.”

Today, that short staffing is likely double the staff on a regular shift, in most any newsroom. Think about that.  Journalism is remarkably thin and getting more-so by the day in print, radio and TV — and those “fewer” journalists need to publish multi-platform stories, with multiple updates.

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It’s not surprising that many long for simpler times, fully staffed times, not to mention times where the names behind the news were trusted, seasoned, journalists.

My grandparents had a little transistor radio, on their kitchen table, constantly tuned to CKNW. That’s where news was reported for us in the 70’s/80’s and 90’s.  We listened with serious focus, and when big news broke – we learned the facts. (My grandfather would “SH!” us at the top and bottom of each hour.)

As time passed and technology evolved we grew to trust our TV’s more and more – in the 80’s and 90’s it was the 6pm News on CBC or BCTV (now Global).  Without hesitation, we’d tune for “the News”, never doubting the content. We trusted the armies of journalists, producers, editors and camera people scrambling at all hours to bring the truths of our world to our TV’s. We would find facts. Period.

My early newsroom experiences were educational, to say the least.  I was wide-eyed doing sports in a room full of The Press.  These dedicated people spent hours upon hours “getting it right”, there was very little (or no) speculation, very little (or no) editorializing, it was straight forward…it was dry, truthful…it was News. Everyone involved in the process of “lining up” the major news to 6pm was laser-beam focused. No need to “be first on social”.

Do you know when News changed forever?

For many of us things changed when OJ was followed in that slow-speed chase — live-feed cameras capturing the “news AS IT HAPPENED”.  We all, collectively, discovered CNN as they stayed on the unfolding story, live, for hours and hours. (Unheard of.) Born was the “torqued” 24 hour news cycle.

Fast forward, again, and it’s 9/11. We were all glued to the visuals of terror — bonded by the collective sadness, fear, and awe of this tragedy.

Now, as I’ve pointed out in a prior post, many of us are unplugged from cable news (we left CNN when they went into the third month of non-stop Anna Nicole Smith coverage.) It was that “click bait” era where News was no longer the star.

As we ponder another week of 24 hour-a-day Trump v Clinton, it’s timely to consider how we got here?

This culture of ‘keeping the eyeballs’ leads us to today, a time when Twitter is a news source and Donald Trump has a 50/50 shot at POTUS.

Around any table you hear people use baseless facts as their foundation for debate – loose, 140-character, soundbites, crafted to sound like truths. I’m scared of the mis-information being sold as News. Cultivating an entire generation of miss-informed.

Don’t get me wrong, if you follow fully staffed news organizations on Twitter, there is news to be found — but you can’t count on simply what’s viral. So much trustworthy news can be found online — but due diligence is required. The vast majority, and often the loudest at the table, don’t do that sleuthing.

One thing to consider is how many media outlets, who’ve traditionally competed to cover news, are amalgamating. On a local level alone it’s concerning that one company owns both of Vancouver’s major daily newspapers. How did we get here?  Is it as simple as $$profits$$?

We need competing media. We need to pay journalists to work the story.

Did you see Spotlight? That incredible group of journalists were paid to investigate for months/years — followed by vetting and fact checking, only to then see their story hit the pages of the Boston Globe. That story stopped horrific crimes against children.

What stories are we missing in this new reality of thinned journalism?

Every day, it seems, we hear of another Mega Media deal being made — where for $85 billion dollars AT&T buys Time Warner.  The ability to purchase the competition is leading to a plague on newsrooms, it’s concerning.  Don’t we deserve real news?

Huge swaths of TV news programs have been earmarked for fluffy “viral videos” — the chewing gum of media — in place of actual reporting.  The lead story is “wherever the ONE camera person was overnight”….rather than where the actual news happened.

News coverage is expensive and important….we are living in a time where profits to shareholders are more important than news. There is so much “sell”, so much dumbing down, so much speculative talk over actual substance.

So, with complete sincerity I ask: where DO YOU get your news?

If the answer is “Facebook” or “twitter” or “YouTube” do you consider the source? Does # of views help give validity to a story?

Forever curious of where a story originated — who the journalist(s) is — is a good start.

Reporting news is a big game of “telephone”, after all. (You know the game where words are whispered around a table and the outcome is hysterically different than the original statement? We played this last weekend with friends, it sparked this post.) Social media, if used incorrectly, becomes a big game of telephone.  Look at the “re-opening” of the FBI Clinton Email investigation debacle.  A tweet goes viral, with unconfirmed “facts” and now it is fact (until the truth was released )– At issue here is that the truth fails to go AS viral as those false facts..its scary.

When folks “blame the media” for Donald Trump’s rise from reality TV show star to 1 of 2 for POTUS — perhaps it should be considered to take a good look at those who grab the profits while firing veteran journalists?

There’s some worthy due diligence.

 

Update: We need more of this….. good work by the Toronto Star/CNN

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6 Comments

  • Reply Charlotte Phillips October 31, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Wow! What an awesome perspective and well written essay! You bring a measure of journalistic integrity to this conversational community. As the child of two old-school journalists, I miss the feeling that the “news” was something you could trust. People will find validation in their beliefs by simply tuning into the channel that meets their views. The fact checking has been relegated to the viewer.

  • Reply David Chesney November 1, 2016 at 5:53 am

    Get the widow on the set, we need dirty laundry. I turned my TV off when I saw Chris Gailus say “If you have any news stories, send them to us.” Huh?

  • Reply Peter Forward November 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Ah Jody, Pacific Press has been around since 1958. So Vancouver has always had “1” newspaper during our lifetime.

    Where do I gat my news? Well I have never trusted any news source. I use critical thinking and do my own due diligence. It pays to be cynical and never take anything at face value.

    I’m sorry but I don’t have the same memories of the good old news days. In fact by having so many bad sources of news.now may scream at folks to open their eyes as to how easily they can be mislead. Alas given the popularity of morons such as Teump and his vast army of idiotic supporters, putting faith into the masses may not be such a wise move on my part.

    • Reply Jody Vance November 1, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Thank you for your perspective Peter. Just for the sake of clarity, Pac Press used to have two newsrooms, and they were incredibly competitive. That is no longer the case. What newsroom did you work in? I’m curious.

      • Reply Peter Forward November 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm

        I just used to deliver The Province back in 1979-81. Never worked in a newsroom.

        • Reply Jody Vance November 1, 2016 at 2:56 pm

          Ah, I see.

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