Saturday, December 15, 2012

Different Planes

A Facebook friend insisted that reporting had nothing to do with playing blame games and I insisted that reporting is fundamentally a blaming rhetoric. Like he says, "we come from different planes". The appeal to justify professional journalism as ethically appealing to the truth is quite commonplace in the news media, regardless of the source (See FOX News). In fact, this pursuit of historical purity is one of the fundamental principles of journalism:
1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth
Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can--and must--pursue it in a practical sense. This "journalistic truth" is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built--context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need--not less--for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context. (PEW Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism)
Call me antiquated, romantic, quixotesco, borgiano, a traveler from a different city, or just plain terco y necio como las cabras, but I can't agree. I am not accusing my Facebook friend of lying, however; nor am I insinuating that his journal (which I really enjoy reading) is in par with Fox News. Nothing is that low. I don't agree because I believe that no story, no matter how practical is ever neutral, philosophically or otherwise. The fact that a "report" has been given already points to an event, to actors on a scene, to cause and effect, to a language, a memory, perhaps even a "crime". No matter how much detail and citation is part of the story words have to be chosen by the writer, a story has to be heard and understood.

I am not saying that he is not mindful of all of this, either; that he doesn't try to apply the "practical sense" of the truth to communicate or relay a "fair and reliable account". I am simply wondering why he can't accept his participation in the (re)production of knowledge, but I know the answer. Coming out of the gate with him are those who believe that their participation in the production of knowledge is to make sure that the knowledge is not tainted and coming out of the gate with me are those who believe that knowledge is the stain itself.

Perhaps my plane is less crowded, but I have more leg room.

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