I personally think honestly disclosing rather than hiding one’s subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism. But no journalism – from the most stylistically ‘objective’ to the most brazenly opinionated – has any real value unless it is grounded in facts, evidence, and verifiable data, Glenn Greenwald
In recent months I have spent far too much time viewing and listening to the saga unraveling in this, the Trumpian era. One thing that has been of particular interest to me is the way in which we as viewers/listeners have come to “put a face” on those who dare to share their knowledge and, even more, their opinions. In many cases, respected print journalists have emerged from behind the by-line to face the camera and/or microphone.
Whether it’s Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, Phil Rucker or Joy Reid, we now understand the news, in part, through the personality of the presenter. Though this fact marks a change abhorrent to some who value journalistic objectivity above all, it is a fact of journalistic life. To be honest, I appreciate putting a face on the skilled – and opinionated – journalists whose information and opinion I can assess for myself.
My ultimate goal is to learn the truth. This de-mystification of the process prompts me to ponder how these journalists locate, evaluate, and shape the information they share. As I view or listen I match the presentation with the process; I envision the roles of those who manage or at a minimum influence the information chain. As the investigative journalist reports on her findings, my mind is asking how do you know that? What resources did you use? Who determined those resources? Who organized it? Who archived that information? Who asked the questions? How were the statistics collected? What’s missing? How do you know what you know? I tend to put a face on each of the players on whom the journalist depends.
Mine is a subjective analysis of the information chain itself. And still it’s time to put a face on what is an invisible, complex, implicit but undeniable – and ultimately very human – process.
Those who would mess with the information chain know the links all too well. They are at the ready to hinder the flow, shape the issues, determine the players, and otherwise weaponize information. Similarly, those who would squelch the truth are adept at determining that data are not collected, much less published, that voices are ignored, that stories are overlooked or skewed, that money talks – and is heard. https://thinkprogress.org/trump-officials-erase-climate-data-2a4e4fe81f96/
Which is why the time has come to “put a face” on the process of information collection, interpretation, organization, preservation, distribution – all those “backroom” sorts of things that ensure that essential information moves through the information chain efficiently and effectively. This will require more collaboration among the professionals who are the links in the chain; it will also require greater attribution. Above all, this demands educating information consumers about the characteristics and function of the links in the information chain.
We the people, the decisions-makers in this democracy, depend on solid, verifiable information – truths – so that we are individually and collectively equipped to make good decisions in our own lives and in the life of the democracy.
Important as journalists are, their work depends on a powerful and dependable information chain that is forged by an unsung team of professionals, each responsible for a link, all responsible for the whole. The work depends on intellectual and financial commitment.
It’s time for the professions to speak out, to demand respect – and financial support. And it’s time for concerned citizens to understand the critical links in the information chain. We need to put a face on the critical role and skilled work of those who gather, organize, preserve and otherwise make information accessible to journalists and other information presenters whose research, voices and visages convey that information to the public.
Fact checking after the fact is putting a band aid on misinformation.
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