Friday, December 18, 2009

Dec. 18: Journalism Needs More Accuracy and Less Volume

By Sylvia Gurinsky

ABC news anchor Charles Gibson will quietly retire after tonight's newscast.

In an interview that ran in the Washington Post earlier this week, Gibson expressed discomfort with the tone television news has taken recently. As he said, it has become louder and more partisan. It's not something he wants to be part of.

He's right. His departure coincides with the sound and fury over the latest celebrity scandal, that of golfer Tiger Woods, and with the noise that gets made on both sides of the political spectrum about health care, the economy or the war in Afghanistan. That, along with the economic collapse of long-standing media entities, is enough to make one wonder whether American journalism as a whole will ever be good again.

Certainly, there are islands of sanity - National Public Radio and two CBS News programs, "60 Minutes" and "CBS News Sunday Morning," among them. And there are still thousands of journalists quietly doing stellar work for entities ranging from community newspapers to online journalism sites.

But the squeaky wheel gets the grease - or the green, in this case. And there are a lot of squeaky - and low-quality - wheels these days. There are also a lot of people who seem to think the way to "make it" in journalism today is to compromise ethics and give in.

That is not the case. Journalism is as trendy as anything else in American life; just look at Joseph Pulitzer, who went from being the king of "yellow journalism" to creating the ultimate prize representing journalism excellence.

One hopes American journalism, which doesn't look so good today, will eventually undertake a similar march back to respectability. This country needs it. Journalists need to improve their accuracy - and turn down the noise.

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