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Many journalists say it’s time to jettison traditional objectivity and focus more directly on pursuing the truth. As I wrote in a previous post, I think objectivity is still a valuable newsgathering tool. But one thing that complicates this discussion is the fact that there are different kinds of truth. Some truths are the kind reporters can uncover and illuminate. Others, not so much. For example, let’s say your editor assigns you to write a story about whether the death penalty has been an effective deterrent to crime. In other words, do states with the death penalty have lower homicide rates than those without? ForRead More →

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Every few years, an old debate re-emerges in journalism: Is objectivity a good thing? The debate goes something like this: Objectivity opponents argue that journalism at its best should be about the pursuit of truth. Traditional he said-she said reporting, which requires that journos document both sides of every argument and refrain from making their own judgments, may be objective but does nothing to reveal the truth, they say. Journalist Wesley Lowery recently summed up this view in a tweet: American view-from-nowhere, “objectivity”-obsessed, both-sides journalism is a failed experiment. We need to fundamentally reset the norms of our field. The old way must go. WeRead More →

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Town governments and school boards deal with a wide range of issues. Some are important and interesting, some are mundane and, frankly, dull. So the reporter covering these meetings must quickly learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s say you’re covering the Centerville City Council. At the start of the meeting the council agrees to purchase more paper clips for the town secretary. At the end of the meeting councilors vote to raise property taxes 5 percent. Which issue should come first in your story? Obviously the tax hike is bigger news. It affects far more of your readers, and in a fairlyRead More →

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What if everything you’d heard about the death of newspapers was wrong? What if the future of news wasn’t online? Granted, those are decidedly unpopular views. Just about everyone who prognosticates about the news business these days seems to echo the common wisdom that print journalism is on life support, to be replaced, eventually, by all things digital. But Dr. Iris Chyi, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is a (nearly) lone voice in the wilderness who believes that newspapers have some life in them yet. Which is good because, she adds ominously, there simply is no successful business model forRead More →

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A professor from another college recently sought my advice about how to rejuvenate his school’s journalism program. He asked me two questions, one easy, the other not so much. First, the easy one: What skills will be the most critical for a student who hopes to enter the journalism job market in the next five years? I’m old-school. I still believe the most important skills to teach journalism students are solid, dogged reporting and clear, lucid writing. That’s the primary focus of the classes I teach. So how do we make this exciting for students born in the 21st century? Well, we have this old-schoolRead More →