Recognizing shoddy journalism

Even the Wall Street Journal errs. At least Arianna Huffington says so. And though I’m not a dyed-in-the wool fan, her brief dissection of a recent front page story is a refreshing reminder to journalists and readers alike that there is a lot more to telling the story than slapping some information on the page—and making sure it’s proofed.

Huffington accuses WSJ writers of an “egregious case of mislabeling” for calling an editorial dispute a “culture clash” based on “personalities” driven by a “war of words.”

She contends the real issue was about the “conflicts of interest” every journalistic enterprise experiences—and that it took eight paragraphs for the two reporters to move away from what Huffington called their “gossip girl caricature ‘clash of personalities’ narrative” to move into the story.

In developing, or crafting a story, the lead, the opening lines or paragraphs, are critical in setting up the rest of the story.

The insertion of key information—and where it comes from continues to add to the legitimacy of the story. If information is missing, for instance, readers might pause and ask why it’s not there. Are anonymous sources used, and if so, why?

Writers can shape stories in a variety of ways, but the question always remains—are they shaping the story in a way that delivers the information objectively and fairly and without their opinion.

In today’s microwave news environment, with a rush to get the news out, I believe shoddy journalism will be on the rise unless we come to grips—as journalists and readers—and call it like we see it. Thanks for the reminder Arianna Huffington.



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