To Murrow

Edward R. Murrow would have been 100 today if, in the words of this thoughtful article,  “he hadn’t smoked himself to an early death”.

Please read Beth Knobel’s piece, but the bit that struck me was :

“Given that the line between objectivity and opinion is blurring, perhaps we who teach journalism might try to turn out two differently equipped types of reporters.The first are the traditional, straight-reporting kind. The second are the new Murrows, who would specialize in advocacy journalism”

This solution avoids the difficulties of reporters and editors straining at the leash to achieve objectivity, while all the time being criticised for being biased in whichever way the reader/listener thinks.

You know where Michael Moore is coming from, or Richard Littlejohn , so why not the rest of us ?. You’d be surprised how even Ros’s mild profile on this blog has ruffled a few feathers here, some thinking he’s given too much away.

Do you like Beth’s idea of tradional reporters and the advocacy journalists ?

6 Responses to “To Murrow”

  1. 1 Xie_Ming
    April 25, 2008 at 12:26

    The BBC as a whole cannot indulge in “advocacy journalism”, because it would lose the credibility that it is working so hard to reestabish.

    It is entirely feasible for individual programs to announce their purpose and to do so.

    WHYS claims to invite and sound views from all over the World, and also to serve as a comments board concerning other BBC programs.

    The filters applied should be those of logic, rationality and fact, even allowing raw emotion when it is representative. But personnel who feel they must present their own views should move elsewhere, for it will become evident that their filtering of comment is biased and they will be encouraged to follow their bias by expressing it.

    An employee who recognizes his own bias need not resign, he may ask another who is not so biased to handle the subject.

  2. 2 Xie_Ming
    April 25, 2008 at 13:14

    A microphone may seem like a pulpit, groupie listeners are fans and can be seen potential parishoners if one’s own ego is uncurtailed. Thus can the journalistic employee assume the role of priest.

    “The media man is a sort of priest. Today, it is the media personality who increasingly discharges a goal-articulating and judgmental function. The worldview of the media person is constrained by the set of characters who make up his special environment. The media person is not trained to function as priest or prophet but, as a function of his popularity, this becomes his role.”
    (Ideologys Handbook, Athabascan 2005 pg. 128)

    All journalists concerned with these problems should be aware of G. Trow’s article in the New Yorker of November 17, 1980 “Within the Context of No Context”.

  3. 3 Shirley
    April 25, 2008 at 14:56

    That one could be given free journalistic licence to insert his own views into his reporting is scary. Editorials and opinion articles should be a separate line of work from reporting.

    No-one can be perfect, but we should keep to an ideal standard and hold others to it in the spirit of unbiased journalism.

  4. April 25, 2008 at 15:18

    reporting is reporting
    journalism is keeping record
    a reporter can be a journa-list
    or a journal-ist

    there are more than two types of reporting and hundreds of ways to be a journo

    i would rather have a passionate reporter who knows his stuff [with a passion to pass on that both good and bad on their chosen subject]we have a great shortage of political ‘reporters’ and not enough journalists

    if two write upon the same story their writings should not be the same [if it is its not real reporting cause we all have different intrests ,and levels of knowing]

    too much reporting is cut from the same press brief
    too much journalism uses the same source , bias or censure

  5. 5 Will Rhodes
    April 25, 2008 at 15:47

    Can I write an essay, please?

    OK – I will cut it short so simply put, reporters should be reporters and report the facts. Now, reporting facts isn’t nice, and people don’t like that which is not nice. Those who use the media to report PR want their cause to be as nice as possible so they can use that as advocacy.

    Not this isn’t kissass – but I do think the BBC has it about as right as can be in this world we have today. They have, for now, balance. Will that continue – we will have to wait, but I do feel the BBC should stand up for itself and say, vociferously, that no matter which government is elected they will stand by their principles and keep on track of being balanced.

    This comes back to when asked would we appreciate what the people who run this blog thinks? I still think yes, we would. But that means that certain guidelines can/will be broken – but I feel that is unfair – once you go home you become your own person. Should your employer have control over what you do or say at home, outside your working life? The answer to that is no, but it is a very grey area as we all know.

    Look at the blank pages we have on this blog – which other international news agency allows this? So far I haven’t found one! And I have been looking.

    With the explosion of blogs, you find armature journalism and, I would suspect you find some talent – can that talent be employed by CNN, BBC, Al J, FOX? I am not sure – but the establishment has to change, the internet has brought a new balance in journalism and, as yet, is widely ignored by that same establishment because they still feel that it can be controlled.

    Bias is a feature of journalism – reporting is a fact exercising option, which do we have most of?

  6. April 25, 2008 at 23:07

    My parents bought a television to watch Edward R. Murrow, and he taught my little pre-school self to hate witch hunters. Murrow got to be himself because he sold TV sets to families like mine with his live TV coverage of events. After WWII he came home with a war reporter’s eye, as well as a war reporter’s taste for alcohol and smokes. He saw that like Nazism, McCarthyism was a collectively held lie which he and other journalists were duty bound to kick the life out of. Times like the 1950’s where war heroes return home and are treated like traitors for refusing to sign loyalty oaths make journalism a particularly partisan playing field. He walked the line and stayed employed; unlike my dad and many others. He sent my generation out to find the story and employ ourselves.

    The 1960’s and 70’s featured many alternative magazines and newspapers written and produced by people like myself, who watched Murrow and refused to be afraid of the repercussions of deep reseach on the malfeasance of the powerful. We had no choice to be partisan, because by the 1970’s the inconvenient facts were being kept out of many mainstream outlets until we published them and lived to tell the tale.

    Cheers, Ed, wherever you are. Good night and good luck.

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