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‘Hardly any confidence’

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Scholastic journalists must seize the opportunity to improve confidence in media

by CyndiCrothers-Hyatt
A recent national poll conducted by the Columbia Journalism Review asked Americans about their confidence in the press. It’s no surprise that in our country’s current climate there is a level of distrust of the media among Americans.

But the results were shocking. Not only is there mistrust but the level is staggering and mind-blowing.

The poll asked about confidence in seven institutions:  military, law enforcement, universities, the Supreme Court, the Executive Branch, the press and Congress. The group that scored the highest in the “hardly any confidence at all” category?

The press.

Regarding truth-telling, the majority of respondents believe reporters write an article before learning the facts of the event.

And it gets worse.  A whopping 60 percent of respondents believe reporters are paid by their sources.  (Paid by their sources.  Where did that idea come from?)

Professional journalists have a tough job before them to dispel these perceptions, but in the meantime student journalists may well face the same attitudes and beliefs among their peers as those expressed in the poll.

What’s a student to do?  Keep calm and keep reporting, but pay closer attention to telling the truth and that means working a little harder.

It’s easy to misspell a name or get a date or a score wrong, and it may be just as easy to say after the fact no one really cares or it’s just a small detail that won’t be noticed.  Wrong. The first thing people notice is the errors. You could produce the most moving and powerful story, one that is worthy of a Pulitzer or an Emmy, but if you spell the subject’s name wrong you will hear about it.

It’s easy to misspell a name or get a date or a score wrong, and it may be just as easy to say after the fact no one really cares or it’s just a small detail that won’t be noticed.  Wrong. The first thing people notice is the errors. You could produce the most moving and powerful story, one that is worthy of a Pulitzer or an Emmy, but if you spell the subject’s name wrong you will hear about it.

Take time to double or even triple fact check stories.  Make sure to attend events and not just report on hearsay or someone else’s notes.  Tell all sides of the story. Keep your notes. Your credibility is critical. Once people start to believe you aren’t getting it right or making it fair, they’re less likely to defend your constitutional First Amendment rights.  

Those extra steps are worth taking.

We’ve all been sloppy.  We’ve all had a goof or two. We’ve all missed a viewpoint or voice that should have been included.  

It happens, but it’s not acceptable, especially now.

Let’s see those numbers change the next time CJR runs a press poll.   

 

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