Jody Vance

Rebuilding Real Journalism – by Jody

Getty Images: Tim Grist Photography

“We are just sending a camera.”

Those words resonated then, today we feel the real fall out.

It seemed innocent enough, just sending a camera, I mean — costs needed to be cut, we need the clip.  If the shooter gathered visuals for a VO (voice over) and a SOT’s (sound on tape/clips) we could show that “we” were there.

In no way am I calling myself an expert, and the majority of my story gathering was sports related, however, I’ve been around a while. It is a vivid memory, when reporters “didn’t need to attend” the press conference because it was cheaper to “just send a camera”.

We can draw a direct line from the lack of journalists fighting for the story to the lack of accountability on FACTS by politicians, both here and abroad.

What brings this up today is the US White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, stepping before the podium for his first address to the media only to lie about inauguration attendance and then refuse to take questions from the gallery.

“Taking no questions” is the awful reality we are all living with now.  It’s unacceptable.  It’s wrong at The White House Press Room — it’s wrong in our Parliament — it’s wrong at any City Hall. Hell, it’s wrong at Super Bowl Media Day!

Politicians have become all too comfortable with simply delivering their message and then heading for the exit.  (See: Stephen Harper or PM Justine Trudeau or Gregor Robertson…but I digress)

Over the last decade it’s become common practice to send “only shooters” to press conferences where questions and answers used to be lobbed and returned with great fervour. This is not to suggest that the shooters aren’t smart, often they are extrordinairily brilliant, it’s simply not their job to ask questions, it’s a journalist’s job.

Being the person charged with collecting the details of a story is a massive responsibility. Journalists sweat questions — fearful of sounding behind on a story, or short on facts to back up our “follow up”.  Asking “on behalf of the public” is, and should be, a huge responsibility – on most any topic.

That responsibility triples (or more) when politics is the subject matter. Each day Political Press stand, with a headful of confusing policy and history on any topic, faced with those who want to tell them nothing.  Literally – nothing.  The journalist’s job is to extract the answers to the tough questions. We count on them to get answers to questions that we wouldn’t even think of! How many “non-answers” have you heard from politicians around the globe?

Just sending “a camera” has left our Politicians without accountability.

There was a time when there were reporters, real journalists, at every city council meeting, at the courthouse for big cases….even at the ribbon cuttings and planned photo ops to GET THE STORY.  As technology grew, and eyeballs fled to Netflix, the odd-one-out of the budget math was the journalist.

You know it, you’ve seen it.

In place of the journalist’s report …. we see the pundit.  The often well educated person, with a serious penchant for opinion, deliver “their take” with flare. Trouble is, these pundits have never “been there”, they’ve not met the subject of the debate and have not lobbed the questions in search of the answers.  They give often educated perspective, but not the actual story with Questions and ANSWERS.

Journalists are the missing piece of the ‘Fake News’ puzzle.  Roll up your sleeves, it’s time to rebuild.

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  • Reply Ben Lu January 23, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Yes the awful new press secretary needed to be brought to his reality: he is a public servant, not a corporate troll and it’s not his place to decide not to answer questions. I hope one of the reporters in that room would eventually take him to task and put him in his place. It was a revolting scene to watch, that ‘press conference’.

  • Reply Gord Dieno January 23, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I could not agree with you more. The problem is, people have become so accustomed to getting their “news” without paying for it. So far, I haven’t seen a digital business model that is able to extract enough money from their customers to fund a viable journalist pool.

    It had better happen soon because a lot of us are about ready to tune out altogether as it seems there is nothing we can trust.

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