Inside the Media
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To order Winning with the News Media:
Below are excerpts from the Accuracy chapter of
Winning with the News Media
Copyright © 2005, 2001, 1999, 1996
By Clarence Jones
If That’s the Story, I Must
It is my impression that the media are much less accurate these days. Why has accuracy deteriorated?
I believe the major cause is the intense pressure to increase corporate profits. Most daily news outlets in America are now owned by large, distant corporations. The final decision-makers are corporate executives a thousand miles away. They closely watch ratings and circulation figures. Higher ratings and circulation mean you can charge more for advertising. The company’s profits and stock price will increase.
The Business/Newsroom Wall
In the middle part of the 20th Century, news reporters and editorial writers were completely divorced from the business side of journalism at newspapers and broadcast stations run by ethical owners. Accuracy was the highest single goal for conscientious reporters and editors.
As a young newspaper reporter, I thought it unethical to even think about circulation, or advertising, or company profit.
When I moved to TV, I was bothered at first by the newsroom’s awareness and concern with ratings. Then I realized we had tough competition, and ratings were the scoreboard. My newspaper had not had a serious competitor. My second TV station had a rule — no advertising people in the newsroom. The manager did not want anybody to even suspect that profit could influence news.
Profit Oozes Into the Newsroom
As the ownership of the American media changed, the drive to be profitable oozed into virtually every newsroom. Today, there is enormous pressure on reporters and editors to get the sensational story. Too often, in my opinion, they publish or broadcast first, then check the facts later.
Unfortunately, this same competitive force makes the media echo each other’s stories. They do not want to be left out of the major, breaking story which draws readers/viewers/listeners. It is pack journalism at its worst.
And so the story generated by an unconfirmed rumor, a shaky or fictitious source, is quickly relayed from one news outlet to another. Whether true or not.
The Internet Adds to the Problem
The Internet, with its immediacy, its capacity to circle the globe within seconds, and its attraction for wackos who are wannabe publishers, has added a new dimension to the problem.
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