Chapter 9: Make the News Comprehensive and Proportional
What is news? In chapter eight, Kovach and Rosenstiel said the principle of engagement and relevance helps explain how journalists can more effectively approach their stories. In this chapter, they introduced the principle that informs what stories to cover: Journalists should keep the news comprehensive and in proportion.
Kovach and Rosenstiel compare journalism with modern cartography. “It creates a map for citizens to navigate society. That is its utility and its economic reason for being,” Kovach and Rosenstiel said. Relating journalism to mapmaking helps journalists see that proportion and comprehensiveness are crucial to success.
In news, proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective; yet they are essential to journalism’s financial success. Kovach and Rosenstiel said people do not expect perfection, but the key element is credibility.
Chapter 10: Journalists Have a Responsibility to Conscience
The final principle, Kovach and Rosenstiel said, is one that journalists have come to understand about their work and that we as citizens “intuit” when we make our media choices. The ninth principle is that journalists have an obligation to exercise their personnel conscience. What does this mean? “Every journalist, from the newsroom to the boardroom, must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility – a moral compass,” said Kovach and Rosenstiel.
An open newsroom is the best environment to fulfill the principles that have been outlined throughout the book. Kovach and Rosenstiel said “we [news organizations] need our journalists to feel free, even encouraged, to speak out and say, ‘This story idea strikes me as racist’.”
Finally, it is important for journalists to recognize a personal obligation to voice their opinion and differ with or challenge editors, owners, advertisers, and even authority figures if accuracy and fairness require they do so.
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Chapter seven: Journalism As a Public Forum
Journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise is the sixth principle of journalism, said Kovach and Rosenstiel.
“[N]ewspapers are not only the vehicles of what is called news; they are the common instruments of social intercourse, by which the Citizens of this vast Republic constantly discourse and debate with each other on subjects of public concern,” said Noah Webster in 1793. The journalistic forum should adhere to all principles, including public discourse, and its relation to the central role of compromise in democratic society.
Webster’s purpose was to remind journalists that public discourse predates traditional American journalism. The news, for instance, before Gutenberg, was simply an exchange of words between friends and foes in bars, restaurants and local stores. It’s an aspect of journalism that some amateur journalists tend to forget.
Chapter eight: Engagement and Relevance
One key aspect of journalism is telling the story. However, for Kovach and Rosenstiel, it isn’t just the act of story telling; it’s what makes the story interesting and worthy of a reader’s time. An essence of story telling that brings us to another principle: “Journalism must make the significant interesting and relevant.”
Kovach and Rosenstiel said journalist’s responsibility is to provide newsworthy information, but in a manner that intrigues readers. Such an attempt involves more than just using the inverted pyramid, which requires more time that many journalists have nowadays.
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Elliott Parker, retired Central Michigan University journalism professor, told CMU journalism students Monday that Nanyang Technological University “is the lead institution” in Singapore.
NTU, one of top two universities in Singapore, is ranked among the 50 most prestigious universities in the world, according to Parker.
With a population of about 65 million, Singapore has “no resources, no natural resources; but Singapore has poured its money into education,” said Parker.
Though retired, Parker continues to be actively involved in the tuition exchange program between the School of Communication and Fine Arts at CMU and the School of Communication and Information at NTU. Interestingly enough, the tuition exchange program actually saves students money.
“It would cost less to take a semester and study in Singapore than in Mount Pleasant,” said Parker.
According to Parker, acceptance into the program isn’t hard to acquire because of CMU’s strong journalism department.
“If you’ve got a three-point [GPA] and you don’t have any problems in your journalism courses, you won’t have a problem,” said Parker.
Retired Central Michigan University journalism professor Elliott Parker spoke to CMU journalism students Monday about a tuition exchange study abroad program in Singapore.
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Chapter 5: Independence from Faction
William Safire, once a speech writer for President Richard Nixon, transitioned from politics to journalism shortly after the Watergate scandal broke out. Within this chapter, Safire uses his experience and knowledge to offer some insight into what journalists should do.
Safire mentioned a few key words to describe the fundamentals of good journalism:
“Hard facts; truthful conclusions; not letting ideology turn you away from a story; candid labeling; honesty;” said Kovach and Rosenstiel.
Kovach and Rosenstiel note the fourth key principle of journalism: journalists must have an independence from those they cover. In other words, don’t be afraid to call somebody a drug dealer or “terrorist,” as Safire said. Journalists must be dedicated to verifying the facts and maintaining such strict accuracy.
Chapter 6: Monitor Power and Offer Voice to the Voiceless
In chapter six, Kovach and Rosenstiel make note of the roots of investigative reporting that stems from another principle of journalism:
“Journalist must serve as an independent monitor of power,” said Kovach and Rosenstiel.
According to both authors, this fundamental principle is also known as the watchdog principle; a principle in which journalists serve as the overseers of the government. The watchdog principle has arisen in certain United States Supreme Court cases. The USSC case Near v. Minnesota, for example, forbade the government from restraining any publication, with the exception of a story that unintentionally poses a threat to the security of the United States.
The chapter concludes with an in-depth analysis of the three main forms of investigative journalism: original investigative reporting, interpretive reporting, and reporting on investigations.
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Chapter 3: Who Journalists Work For
According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, authors of The Elements of Journalism, “journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens.” Journalists serve the public; their goal is to report truthful, accurate and clear news and deliver such news to citizens. Kovach and Rosenstiel write such allegiance to citizens is defined as “journalistic independence;” which has created some confusion between journalists and the public.
In the newsroom, a “wall” is often created between journalists – or the news – and the business side of the news corporation. A wall such as this one creates tension and raises the question of a journalist’s true loyalty to citizens. Kovach and Rosenstiel note five key characteristics to define the relationship between business and news: (1) The owner/corporation must be committed to citizens first; (2) hire business managers who also put citizens first; (3) set and communicate clear standings; (4) journalists have final say over news; and (5) communicate clear standards to the public.
Chapter 4: Journalism of Verification
In chapter four, Kovach and Rosenstiel note that “the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art.” Journalism ignores the manipulation and persuasion of facts and infotainment and focuses on accuracy and clarity.
Within the text is a set of concepts that are fundamentally the core of the discipline of verification.
Essentially, they are principles of reporting: (1) Never add anything that was not there; (2) never deceive the audience; (3) be as transparent as possible about your methods and motives; (4) rely on your own original reporting; and (5) exercise humility.
Why should journalists be humble? According to Kovach and Rosenstiel, “not only should they [journalists] be skeptical of what they see and hear from others, but just as important, they should be skeptical about their ability to know what it really means.”
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Chapter One: What is Journalism For?
Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, authors of The Elements of Journalism, said “Journalism was for building community. Journalism was for citizenship. Journalism was for democracy.” Kovach and Rosenstiel reiterate throughout the chapter that the primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate information that allows them to be free and self-governing.
Further in chapter one, Kovach and Rosenstiel provide an in-depth analysis on a few specific elements of journalism: the awareness instinct, the birth of journalism, a free press in an electronic age, the journalist’s theory of democracy and a few others.
Finally, there are three key forces that are causing a shift away from journalism connected to citizen building: the first is the nature of the new technology, the second major factor is conglomeration, and the third factor driving the new market journalism is globalization.
Chapter Two: Truth: The First and Most Confusing Principle
In this chapter, Kovach and Rosenstiel focus on emphasizing the importance of truth and accuracy in every aspect of journalism. According to the authors, “Accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built; context, interpretation, debate, and all of public communication.” Overtime, several journalists have suggested a few substitutes for truthfulness, including fairness and balance. However, Kovach and Rosensteil believe fairness to bee too abstract and could be more subjective than truth. Balance, also, is too subjective; balancing a story by being fair to both sides might not be fair to the truth and the overall message journalists are trying to convey to their readers.
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