Journalism Today: Fail

I read an article today regarding how a dog attacked its owner.  Now, I realize that it is awful that this happened.  I am sure that the victims were scared and hurt.  When I first read it my outrage was more about what probably caused this to happen (dog did not just go nuts) rather than what I am about to write.  When I stepped back and thought about the way the article was written it got me thinking more deeply.

Is that what journalism has come to in print media?

“When Deborah Hankin’s boyfriend left her and his gargantuan Cane Corso Mastiff, she continued to care for him like her own, feeding him every day at 2:30 p.m.
But in return, the beast turned around and mangled her and a friend Saturday afternoon at her home”- Philadelphia Daily News 8/2/10

This lead reads like a fiction short story rather than a news article.  That in itself is disturbing enough.  The rest of the article was poorly written as well.  The more I thought about it, the angrier it made me.  There was absolutely no research done for this article.  The writer took it upon herself to use the skills she learned in a  fiction class to make her article appear more interesting.  That is not news writing. 

It seems to me these days that when journalists…and I am using that term VERY loosely… are tasked with writing about a subject, they sometimes feel the need to either glamorize/exaggerate it, no better than a reality tv show, or they insert their own opinion in what is CLEARLY not an opinion piece.  I see this daily in any number of print and tv journalism pieces.  It seems to me that some journalists do not know where the line between opinion and fact lies.

I like to write.  I did not go to school for it but even I know the difference between an opinion piece and a news piece.  Both types SHOULD require research from different angles and both should read like a well informed person wrote it.  A news piece should cover all the angles, tell the facts and give readers a well informed idea of an issue or event.  An opinion piece should show both sides, or many sides of an issue then proceed to use well thought out research, writing and words that would back up the opinion of the writer.  Don’t they teach this to aspiring journalists anymore?  I am torn between believing if it is laziness on their part or ignorance.

I guess in a world where reality tv is king, Rush Limbaugh is considered informed (about his own opinions and not much else) and the Tea Party thinks that “Don’t Tread on Me” is their own motto (please, again lazy people that could not come up with their own slogan) this is going the be the norm rather than the correct.

  • PhillyGirlRuns

    This is disappointing and depressing. I understand that, as a general rule, there is simply no such thing as an unbiased media source. I'm a firm believer that it's the reader's responsibility to take things with a grain of salt, review multiple sources, and read between the lines to arrive at his or her own opinion. I know, I know, I know.

    What's most disappointing about this is just how extreme it's become. This is more than your typical “MSNBC bias.” I'd expect to see this type of thing on Fox News – not so much in the Daily News (which, while it's always been the Inquirer's answer to the New York Post, has never seemed quite this nutty). Though, with the recent surge in “OMG SCARY VIOLENT VICIOUS DOGS OMG” stories in the local media, perhaps no one should be surprised.

  • Andrew Green

    Hey, as it happens, I am a reporter for a living….
    For the record, lemme say that I would never have written a story so badly.

    Not all of us are that lousy!

  • Los

    Unfortunately, the Daily News and Inquirer are working EXTRA hard to try and sell papers, as they are losing money hand-over-fist … this smells like an edict from upper management to make the stories sizzle more.

    Also, we've had this in the past – yellow journalism was a big problem many years ago.

    It's kind of sad, though.

  • Diane

    I hate reading a story and then trying to figure out which possessives belong to who (whom?). Good writing shouldn't leave you wondering what the story was about. If I wrote grants that way, I'd be fired.