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Journalists Should Stop Being Arrogant

The focus of the fourth day of the 2019 SUSI Journalism Scholars program on Wednesday, June 7th, was on healthy information communities.

“The time for journalists to be arrogant has long gone.” This was the position taken by Dan Gillmor when speaking to the scholars. 

Mr. Dan Gillmor

According to Mr. Gillmor, who is the founder of Dopplr and Director of the News Co/LabArizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, modern-day journalism practice requires that media organizations help improve community news literacy through increased transparency and engagement. This entails transparency in the process of producing news to make communities understand why and how decisions are made. 

Mr. Gillmor observes that for a long time, the self-righteous indignation of journalists has detached them from communities and created an arrogant cadre of practitioners who believed “they know it all.” He admits that journalists often make mistakes. He believes that sincerity and genuine corrections of mistakes present an opportunity for news organizations to gain the trust of the communities they serve. 

Earlier in the day, Dr. Kristy Roschke, the managing director of the News Co/Lab, discussed the different methods of fact-checking. She took the scholars through the different practices of detecting misinformation; practices that were later re-affirmed by Dr. Scott Ruston from the Global Security Initiative of Arizona State University. Dr. Ruston emphasized that disinformation is not a technical but a human problem, which is often intentionally propagated. He employed narrative structures and forms from film and various media messages to demonstrate how disinformation and misinformation can be constructed. 

Later in the morning, the scholars visited 12News, a Phoenix local television news channel. Journalists at 12News are inspired by the motto, It’s a matter of facts, setting a high premium on accuracy over speed. During the tour of the 12News studios, the staff repeatedly echoed, “It’s better to be second and right, than first and wrong.” 

Before the close of the day, the scholars had an opportunity to tour the Cronkite News newsroom. Scholars interacted with the television news team and watched news producers and directors take student reporters through the drill of producing and presenting news that engages Phoenix residents.

The idea of increasing transparency in the news production process sounds great, but may raise questions related to feasibility. Can it be a sustainable routine practice for news organizations? It appears that this novel concept may still require gauging on the scale of traditional values such as a journalist’s need to be objective and detached from the sources and subjects of a story. 

The gist is for the public to not only know the end product, but understand the means to the end. But again, I’ll not conclude as the righteous one here. So, what do you think? Please share, discuss and gives us feedback.