Sunday, January 10, 2010

Journalism 101

One of my professors in Journalism School used to tell us that there are three rules to live and write by as a journalist:

1. Protect the innocent and do not take advantage.
2. For those who should know better, expect it.
3. Be balanced, accurate and mindful of who you are affecting with every word you write.

That was in the days when the "media" was comprised of newspapers, radio and television. The "World Wide Web" was pretty new at the time, and we did not fully understand the power of its force in the creation of a new media - the social media.

Now the "media" environment includes blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and other forms of social networks that are emerging.

Some people refer to this time as the "information age" because we are information and technology driven. It is true that we have a plethora of information potentially available, but it is all mixed up in a sea of data. The information highway is filled with noise.

We need to be able to differentiate the information from the noise as writers and readers because there are implications when we confuse the information with the noise. Today, for example, I sat across from a table of senior citizens in a restaurant who were talking about the dangers of facebook, and the fact that "everything is there to be read." And it's true. You never know who is reading what,and what affect they can have on your life. The question is, does the content on Facebook or Twitter constitute information status, or it just noise?

The answer is unclear as it depends on who is reading and listening, bringing to light questions of policy and privacy. Should an employer or potential employer search the web, what will they find? And is it binding? Should it be? Do your opinions matter? Technically an employer is not allowed to ask questions of a personal nature not related to the job, but what if that information is available at their fingertips and they know it? What if you don't even get the interview because of your writings? Does what you say in the social media say who you are and what you represent? Many people participate under a persona, but let's face it, we are who we are and we are responsible for what we say and do.

The purpose of this blog is to provide an interpretation, written from a journalist perspective. The hope is to bring a perspective that helps bring some understanding to someone out there. Some of the postings are editorial in nature. Others are research based. All of it is based on experience, observations and interpretations of what it all means and where this is taking us.

I believe that blog writers need to understand the principles of good journalism and at the very least understand that, while the world is an open page upon which we record our history, we need to be mindful that this is new enough that we do not understand the full impact.

The written word, in whatever form, requires respect. Whether's it is an email at work, or a comment on Twitter about a song, the tone and the content matters.

As a reader, we also need to have an understanding of how to interpret all the "information" that is at our fingertips. Not everything is information. At times, I read comments posted on Twitter and I am shocked by the terrible things people sometimes say about others. I would not consider this type of exchange "information"; I would consider it to be part of the noise.

Much like a journalist, who is bound by the rule of integrity in reporting, it is not appropriate for a writer on the web to attack others, or make disparaging remarks that are or perceived to be hurtful or insulting to others.

As a trained journalist and writer, I live in the experience of the world around me as an observer and a recorder of this time that we have. I write things down to understand them.

In 2010, this blog will be focused on living and hopefully inspiring who ever reads this blog to think about what it means to them. I urge other writers to be aware of awesome power of this communciation vehicle. It is powerful and important.

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