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By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Lodging Newsletter Comments: 0
Sometimes it is nice to see your name in the media and sometimes it is not.
As the volunteer Director of the Vacation Rental Association (VRA) I receive calls from media all over the country. Speaking with most reporters reminds me of sitting in Journalism class while pursuing my college degree in Communications from Washington State University all those years ago.
The Communications Department is now named after Edward R. Murrow the CBS television journalist made famous for his broadcasts from London during the Blitzkriegs of World War II. Murrow is idolized by virtually every professional well meaning journalism student for his strength in exposing the McCarthy era Communist witch hunts of the 1950's.
Murrow didn't go after destroying every small business person or government bureaucrat he could intimidate. In fact, I'm pretty sure he would be embarrassed by the state of some current news organizations who have nothing better to do than harass small businesses and well meaning companies.
Instead, Murrow focused on those very few evil and bad will people who seem intent to do harm to others. His ethics were sound unlike those of many reports in conventional media today.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, 'Freedom of the press is reserved for those who own one." That powerful statement warns citizens about the power of the press. And it encourages them to resist over zealous journalism by fighting fire with fire.
Franklin's thought was the rule from the American Revolution until very recently. Today every person on the planet with a computer with an internet connection has the opportunity print their thoughts and stories on line.
While much of that information is flawed, biased and selfish, there is hope this new age of unlimited visibility may level the playing field between laymen and reporters.
For too long reporters with little proper training, no adherence to ethical principals, insufficient time to examine both sides of a story and, frankly, a dangerous casual disregard for the position of others have begun to pop up in main stream newspaper and broadcast organizations and not just in odd-ball print publications.
It is really too bad. Bad for everyone. For those who slander others. And for those who believe such lies without questioning the integrity of the writer.
But the internet is good because now those conventional media reporters themselves can become targets of probes from anyone with a computer, video camera and website. They find out what he feels to be parenthetically stripped searched and exposed to the world for any failing real or imagined.
It is good news to know that there still exists today a legion of journalists who hold true to the principals of Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other greats. But sadly, the quest for ratings, notoriety and ever declining newspaper readership and broadcast audience has forced conventional media managers to hire folks simply not equipped to cautiously handle the immense public-opinion power they are given.
In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." This quote, or something pretty darn close, has also been frequently attributed to Mark Twain.
In that regard we could consider unethical reporters a success.
Unfortunately they have focused on the raising hell part because it’s a lot easier than digging for information, being factual and attempting to report accurately.
They seek out stories to bolster their resume and inflate their own egos. Unfortunately that is done by spewing innuendo, falsifying the facts and not even pretending to pursue a neutral reporting stance.
The difference between Mark Twain and so many current writers is that Twain knew the difference between when he was reporting the news and when he was writing fiction. (Pretty good darn fiction too, most folks say.)
That is not true of the vast majority of folks, with little training or great thinking, who can blog away at all hours of the day and for page after page about every conceivable subject from the lurid to the boring.
Citizen journalists however can be forgiven because they haven't studied the craft nor been entrusted with the
public airwaves or widely read print media. They are kind of like people with gun's who have only seen them on TV.
What may seem glamorous in a scripted made-for-TV war movie is, as any soldier will tell you, a pretty great place to have a gun turn you into blood and guts and death. So these writers know little of the damage they can cause.
Educated journalists on the other hand know better.
A look at online bio's for reporters shows that most have some form of degree in journalism, broadcast or some similar line of study. Unless colleges have changed radically in recent years I know there are well-meaning, well-trained and ethical professors who care deeply about teaching students to research facts, evaluate testimony, and attempt to provide a seemingly unbiased version of the news.
These colleges turn out a great many skilled and well meaning reporters. Like any industry where participants willingly agree to pursue big money, big fame and fan worship (think of sports here) journalists can fall victim to the lure of the game.
You only have to travel from town to town watching sportscasts to admit that all home-town sports reporters are sporting the home-town at the expense of pretty much every other town. Perhaps with sports that should not be concern - after all no one gets killed in sports and even drug-taking athletes can get back in the good graces of fans if they repent.
PROCLAIMING THEIR BIAS:
Consumer advocate journalists are the next category of reporters to fall under the spell of self-aggrandizement. They openly admit they are here to "fight for consumers". No where in their diatribes do they promise to care if the consumer is correct or accurate. Never do they check out the reputation of the consumer.
Instead, they start with the bias the "consumer is always right."
That is tantamount to saying that in a divorce, the "Husband is always right." Society has learned there are seldom absolutes like that and anyone with sufficient education or self-thought knows better.
A good reporter’s job is not to become the story. But to report it fairly. Those who take delight in chasing people down the street, jumping on employees, demanding meetings with people they have never met or and making life hell for other people so he can print a dishonest and disreputable story have sunk to the lowest level.
If a reporter has to big, ugly, ineloquent, rude and obnoxious to get a story, then he is making the story instead of finding one. There will always be consumers who fall for everything, but to fool them into believing a story because of such tactics should be objectionable to all involved.
Naturally creating a story is a lot easier than investing the time necessary to locate a story, determine if it is legitimate and gathering sufficient fact to determine if the story is true and worth of the reader or viewers time. But being lazy should not be a substitute for destroying the honor that Murrow and prior practitioners brought to the craft of news.
Oh and about our own self-aggrandizement here are a couple of stories you might like. Unlike those reporters who need a story before 5pm everyday, we didn't solicit the inclusions or intimidate anyone to get included.
Go to www.WashingtonPost.com and search for "Andrea Sachs" Reporter and "Vacation Rental".
Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0114 – 11/01/09
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