Saturday, April 16, 2011

Journalism Warning Labels

by NomadicJoe

I wanted to depart from my usual style to share with you a suggestion stumbled upon by blogger and programmer Tom Scott. His idea? If governments mandate warning labels on all sorts of things that might be hazardous to our health, why not have such labels on journalism as well?

After all, while noxious or substandard products may pose physical risks, propaganda, false reporting, and advertising posing as news can damage society as a whole.

Here are a few of his examples:

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to tell but generally, when there is only one side of the issue presented you can trust it is not really news.

Often this kind of so-called journalism is a result, not of fraudulent aims, but of simple laziness.

The idea that journalists are somehow intellectually gifted is one that is promoted subtly by- you guessed it, journalists. The most basic prerequisite to be a true journalist is have the ability to put a few words together that make sense. As opposed to supposed journalism degree holder Sarah Palin.

But after that, and more importantly, you have to be curious enough to ask the right questions and to know when the answers make sense. Then you have to have the courage to tell the truth, even when it hurts, and to let the chips fall where they may.

Because I am often quite naïve, I'd never thought this could even play into the equation but when you see what can only be the simpering style of some reporters, it is clear something is amiss.

How many examples have you seen?

Of course, every journalist has their sources. Some sources are better than others. The problem with the approach that Scott is highlighting here is when there is a merry-go-round of reporters all quoting one another. How can a reporter also be a source? I have seen this done inside the same newspaper!

By clicking on this link you will find a lot of warning labels that can be downloaded, printed out and surreptitiously stuck on magazines and newspapers. (That would be wrong but things like this happen.)

Scott's idea has caught on so well that the label collection has been translated in more than 18 languages. and you find those at his site.

So, what warning labels could you add to Scott's collection?

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