Bradshaw: Don’t assume journalists have more training than bloggers in truth-telling

Online Journalism Blog
In a post about whether the blogosphere is less accurate than “proper” journalism, Paul Bradshaw writes that it’s a mistake to assume that professional journalists have more training in truth-telling than bloggers. He argues that people don’t need to be trained to tell the truth:

Journalism training consists, if we’re honest I think, of taking ‘the truth’ – which can be complex, boring, and confusing, and showing how to turn that into a story – simple, interesting (through, for example, focusing on a ‘conflict’, even where that may not be as important as portrayed) and clear.

As journalists we know that the truth is often more complicated than we represent it, so we cannot accuse bloggers of being generically unreliable without acknowledging that our own methods have flaws too.

The opportunity in online journalism – whether by professionals or amateurs – is to better represent that complexity, through linking to more detail (full interviews or raw footage, original documents, complete data) or providing for interactivity (how the story affects their postcode, family, or school; experiencing how a process works).

Related: Trayvon Martin story reveals new tools of media power, justice (Poynter) || Earlier: ChicagoNow blogger says Tribune journalists ‘stealing’ ideas from blogs without credit (Poynter) | Is tech blogging over, or entering a new golden age? (Poynter)

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  • Anonymous

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    I think there’s a problem with the phrase ‘telling the
    truth’ in that it relates more to how we live our lives than to the process of
    factual verification in journalism. 

    A journalist has to get the story right and to do that, we talk to
    people, we cultivate sources, we dig up documents and we verify everything.  Reporters go after fact-based truth,
    with a lower-case ‘t.’


    Without verification, it’s only rumor and spin and wishful


    And it’s training that helps prevent really bad reporting
    by the well intentioned but naive and that’s because they have to adhere to
    some basic rules.


    For example, the requirement that all facts be verified
    prevents them from being scribes and notetakers, preventing them from putting
    unverified assertions into stories.


    The requirement that everything be sourced forces their personal conclusions out of their stories.


    The requirement that all sources be named helps protect young reporters and their readers and viewers from a certain type of spin when they are still so green.

    The operational phrase in journalism
    needs to be fact-based truth – all
    lower cased – no capital ‘T’ – and
    training helps reporters get there faster before
    they’ve wreaked too much damage.

  • Paul Bradshaw

    There’s an ambiguity about both the headline here and the tweet leading to this post that I want to clarify: the post says (for those who don’t click through to it) that it doesn’t require training for people to tell the truth. That’s different of course to whether we ‘have to’ (i.e. “should”) train people to tell the truth.