Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eli Ups the Ante - But In a Nice Way

As Rabett Run said, Eli appears to have torched off a pretty good discussion as to the nature and responsibility of journalism, at least according to the incoming from flacks. This is not sitting well with many, some even have style about it, the ears are buttoned down but the woodwork is boiling over (here, here, here, here, here, here). Eli, of course, is dinged frequently for not tipping the cap and tugging the forelock with proper deference.

So allow Eli to go a bit further. The nature of journalism has changed driven, by the professionalization of the trade and the burgeoning enrollment and number of journalism schools (j-schools) and schools of communication. What they teach shows that there is no longer a dividing line left between public relations, advertising, fiction (film) and journalism. They all take the same classes. You find various combinations at different places.

For example, the alma original, the Missouri School of Journalism, does journalism and public relations, the U Colorado j-school does journalism, advertising and public relations, but they call it media studies which

prepares students for careers as analysts, evaluators and producers of media messages and policies in government and private industry and for graduate education in the social sciences, humanities and law.
In addition to faculty who figure out and teach students how to ferret out and report the news there are faculty who are trying to figure out how to sell a message or a product and teach that to the students. Get some smart people in a room and they can come up with some effective stuff.

And then, of course, there is the journalism - public relations complex with bodies moving constantly back and forth. Two examples which spring to mind are the fabled Marc Morano (he was a poli sci major at GMU for what it is worth, worked as a reporter for some right wing organs, then as a flack for Sen. Inhofe and now is at a think tank pouring out daily misinformation), and Jay Carney, President Obama's new press secretary.

If the places where journalism is taught is also the place where churnalists and flacks are trained, perhaps we need a blogger ethics panel?


seamus said...


Tom Curtis said...

How about scientists start publicly rating journalists, editors and news outlets. For each of the above you could publish a league table of accuracy rate, and clarity in reporting on science issues. At the end of the year you could hand out awards for good reporting, and for bad reporting to give the journalists a hook so they can publish the results - if the dared.

Tom Yulsman said...

Actually Eli, you've got your facts wrong. The advertising sequence where I work (University of Colorado) is completely separate from the journalism sequence. We do not actually have a PR program. And we don't call all of it "media studies," which is actually a completely separate thing. Journalism students learn journalism. Advertising students learn advertising. Media Studies students (all five of them) learn about research into the media.

John said...

Giving awards for journalism?

The Columbia Journalism used to give out "darts and laurels" for bad and good journalism. (Maybe they still do..)

The media watchdog group FAIR gives out annual "P.U.-litzer prizes."

But in general, the journalism profession does not police itself.
Want proof? Just check out the Sunday morning talk shows. The same pundits who got the Iraq war spectacularly wrong are still on the job. (Sole exception: Judith Miller, NYTimes).

EliRabett said...

The students take many of the same courses in their initial years and some as electives. There is more of an overlap than physics and chemistry majors and less than for chemistry majors and ChemEs. There do not appear to be departments, common for small schools and committees are probably (admittedly a guess here) a mix of school wide and program oriented.

There is no Chinese Wall.

As for media studies, go read your own web site
JOUR 4272-3. Public Relations. Surveys public relations in America. Includes case studies and individual projects. Same as JOUR 5272.

JOUR 4282-3. Public Relations Programs. Develops and applies public relations programs, from identification of the problem through execution of public relations techniques. Prereq., JOUR 4272. Restricted to senior NSED majors. Same as JOUR 5282.

And, just to be clear, Eli was not claiming the Colorado is worse than any other place, just that it is the same and this mix of folk who are dedicated to informing the public and disinforming the public is not necessarily a wonderful thing.

The professionalization of disinformation is worrying. The fact that it occurring inside schools of communication is especially worrying, even if the boilerplate says that the force is with the faculty, there is a bad side as Darth Vader discovered. Physicists wrestled with similar issues after WWII and are still engaged.

Eli reports, you decide. Well, ok, sometimes he drops hints.

Anonymous said...

Ben Goldacre demonstrates that medical science reporting can be egregiously bad too. I look forward to the Flecks & Kloors attempting to defend these examples...

Chris S.

Anna said...

Re John's "The same pundits who got the Iraq war spectacularly wrong are still on the job."

We need a Greasemonkey for television, that'll apply red Xs to the pundits with bad track records. Or disemvowell them...

Anonymous said...

Then there are the cases where one doesn't need original sources or know anything to see the problems. I often seen articles, even in the NY Times where the text is directly contradicted by a graph or chart.


Recovering in the Florida Keys said...

Journalist, Churnalist, Expert in the field or Jurist Doctorate analyst, you need a divining rod (i.e. bullshit detector)if you want to be a reasonably informed member of the public.

I applaud your effort, but you are fighting with wind mills it seems.

EliRabett said...

Fighting for windmills perhaps:)?

Recovering in the Florida Keys said...

Speaking of wind mills, think about an alternate energy post. There is a lot of common ground and common mis-perceptions I would love to see discussed from your side :).