Journalism today

My sister sent me a text about an article in the Huffington Post on Black Lives Matter. I agreed with here that it was well-written, but disagreed on the professionalism in which it was written. It is hard today to find an article on a politically-charged subject that is written unbiasedly and with more than one viewpoint.

I offer a few points to consider when you read or listen to media coverage of any mediums. In this case, the authority, Richard M. Cooper, is a clinical assistant professor at Widener University whose work centers on race and social justice issues, according to the article, “7 Myths About Black Lives Matter That People Need To Stop Believing” by Casey Bond. He is a viable source.

The hitch I have (not including the headline, which tells you from the get-go that it is propaganda, not a news article) is that he is someone who studies the subject, not someone who is the subject. His knowledge is not personal, it’s researched. That’s not bad in and of itself. My concern is that his authority is through the lens of his work, which may not be completely unbiased. He is in a position that looks for racism. When we are looking for something, that is sometimes all we see. The brain becomes wired for it and influences our perceptions and feelings. I’m not discounting what he says. He is a good source.

The issue I have is with the article, which basically regurgitated everything he said. There is no second source, not even a quote from the Black Lives Matter website. Is there no one in the United States who could back-up his assertions through personal experience? Is there no one in the United States who could dispute them through personal experience? Is there no one in the United States with a different assertion, personal or researched? And what about outside of the United States? Surely we are not the only country dealings with citizens of different races. Surely, the wheel of multiple races living in peace has been invented somewhere.

Good journalism demands at least two independent sources. The best source is the one who can speak with first-hand knowledge. The next level is those, like Cooper, who can speak with an expertise on the subject. The next is someone who knew the first-hand person or event, such as the interviews we’re seeing now with people speaking about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s feelings, wants and beliefs at the time of her passing. The next is not preferred, which is a news release or worse yet (shudder) reporters interviewing reporters.

Great journalism will use all of the preferred sources and seeks those sources on all sides of the issue. A reader won’t see direct attribution from all of them, but the reporter interviews all and produces copy that sums it up for the reader. Most reporting/news today is not journalism as much as it is propaganda. I know we associate that with big government conspiracy theories, but really it is writing designed to persuade thought by presenting one side. Advertising is propaganda for a product or company – it convinces you of a certain truth and convinces you have to have it.

Please be thinking consumers of information. Our news media is not doing this, so we need to do it ourselves. I did go to the Black Lives Matter website and I read through each page and a lot of the links. I have a different opinion than the one presented by Mr. Cooper, which is fine, because I’m reading it through my own biases. But if you don’t do more than read his words, you have only his bias.

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