Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Floating "PRournalism" Part 2 Credibility

The 2nd “C” – Credibility
How can the values of the Medill School of Journalism, the values of professional journalism and the new gyrations of the professional employment market be aligned for the 21st century beginning in 2010?
The values of journalism as stated by Medill are most visibly found in 2009 at http://ugadm.northwestern.edu/freshman/academics/medill.htm
In its teaching, Medill has always emphasized three fundamentals to media reporting: accuracy, fairness, and balance. "There is a right way, an ethical way, to present the news," says Boye. "More than anything else we want Medill graduates to have a strong appreciation that this is what good journalism is all about."
From the Poynter Institute’s tolerant publishing of G. Stuart Adam’s Notes Towards a Definition of Journalism Understanding an old craft
as an art form: “Whatever else this journalism may be … it is the product of reporting — the gathering and presentation of slices and bits of human experience and thought selected from what N. K. Llewellyn once called the “aperceptive mass of behavior.” So journalism involves, and is defined to some extent by, reporting. But it also involves criticism, or editorializing, or the conferral of judgments on the shape of things. Each of the items in the foregoing inventory — some more consciously than others — involved a judgment or an assessment of the significance or value or worth of the actions of its subjects.” http://www.poynter.org/media/product/20030123_141216_24094.pdf

After meandering about in his essay for 27 pages Adam’s finally writes: “In other words, I am trying to define journalism in terms of what it is rather than by the medium through which it is circulated. Now I am prepared to commit myself.”

He writes: “There are minimally five elements or principles of design in any piece
of journalism that, although journalism may share some of these with
other forms of expression and although the elements may be unequally
represented in individual pieces, together mark and define it. In my
view, journalism comprises distinctive elements or principles (1) of
news, (2) of reporting or evidence-gathering, (3) of language, (4) of narration, and (5) of meaning.” (p. 23).

The readers of the report are fully familiar with Adam’s often used descriptors of journalism through other Medill School 2020 planning terms. Our language is similar but richer choice of words such as storytelling, audience, engaging, news, research, writing, technology, reporting, relevant, differentiated and more..

Dean Lavine stated in 2006 on the Medill 2020 plan:

The realities of today’s media environment require an education that incorporates elements of both traditions, Lavine says. In a world of abundant choice for consumers and fierce competition for their time, journalists need to learn how to reach their audience with compelling stories and presentation, while marketers and communications students must understand how to think and write with the clarity of journalists, according to Lavine. http://www.northwestern.edu/magazine/fall2006/cover/cover/sidebar1.html
Wisely there never was a debate among reasonable, thinking adults about the need for change (only the process). Since 2006 for the journalism program and bluntly since 1989 for the IMC program the changes have been explored, tested, researched, authored, rejected, accepted and refined. As 2020 approaches, the challenge will be to build a viable alternative educational delivery system (a degree combining the content and credible values of journalism for many organizations) that may take as long as IMC has taken to be accepted – toward the year 2020.
For example, a team of communicators at Boeing Corporation operates as the internal communications staff. The team is lead by a former newspaper reporter and editor and staffed with traditional Medill journalism graduates. Their avowed goal is to “transparently communicate to the employees of Boeing” (confirm quote from October 18 2009 meeting).
The example of Boeing is prescient of the future of the need for a journalism based but more broadly targeted educational program in what could be logically, academically and professionally called: “organizational service journalism,” or organizational journalisms” While initial expressions of concern over this preliminary label seemed premature since the report had not been edited or submitted. The report offers in the appendix a combination and permutation of 2925 other phrases constructed from 27 possible degree title words selected from this study. The final choice should be the faculties
The values of the press including “freedom of expression” (Emerson, Fuchs 1992) do not apply only to the traditional news press. It may be time, again, to label the various estates related to the 4th estate of the press and journalism to clarify the richer list of “estates” available to the modern graduate... The discussion above from Adam and Lavine, established that journalism in this discussion is a not simply an organization but a highly professional intellectual process. From this discussion it is fair to suggest that the elements of journalism may be found and logically practiced in any number of institutions or estates.
Given the complex role of so many institutions from the historical 1st-4th Estates it might be reasonable to note the shifts of power and communications to the 1st through the 9th Estates. Therefore, the loss of credibility and the need to restore it for the new estates and old ones. The incumbent expectation of the provision of content may indeed make the new estates “more important than them all."
From the corporate and other organizational concept of transparency in financial, social and other reporting to the shifting search of employees, voters, investors and general public to non-traditional journalism sources for news and news like content, we have a caldron perfect for a more diverse and richly segmented communications “soup”.
William Baker calculates a very high level of unemployment among traditional news journalists: “There's no doubt that news in America is in trouble. Of the 60,000 print journalists employed throughout the nation in 2001, at least 10,000 have lost their jobs, and last year alone newspaper circulation dropped by a precipitous 7 percent. Internet, network and cable news employ a dwindling population of reporters, not nearly enough to cover a country of 300 million people, much less keep up with events around the world. It is no longer safe to assume, as the authors of the Constitution did, that free-flowing news and information will always be available to America's voters.” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091012/baker
Baker’s government take-over (NPR, PBS) or foundation solution in The Nation may be just one of the “too big (or important) to fail” solutions to changing journalism’s future:
“Saving journalism might seem like an entirely new problem, but it's really just another version of one that Americans have solved many times before: how do we keep a vital public institution safe from the ups and downs of the economy? Private philanthropy and government support are the two best answers we have to this question.” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091012/baker
The balance of this report has a modest suggestion of a more balanced, likely and institution building approach to advancing journalism as a provider of credible content.
Proposals for Program Research
Initial paper was shared with a dozen members of the leading elite organizations in public relations - Arthur W. Page Society (www.awpagesociety.com). The select group represents professional PR who led the communications function in corporations with $3,000,000 in sales and the top official of leading PR agencies. Members are selected for life-time appointments.
Several of the reviewers are also current or former adjunct professors in the Medill School of Journalism (IMC Department). The proposal was also read by selected members of the Medill faculty’s journalism educators (full-time) as well as full-time members of the IMC Department. Several graduate students in Journalism and IMC were asked for their opinion.

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