Tag Archives: American Society of News Editors

Journalism standards for bloggers and story commenters

Jumping into the question of journalism education as we did with the story on the end of the program at Olympic High School is a special challenge for a reporter.

For one, journalism is a subject matter we ponder every day. So a story like this lends itself to a little navel gazing.

Secondly, to do a story like this it’s helpful to talk to journalism experts, which means putting our interviewing skills on display in front of experts. I stammered a lot in the first interview and pulled myself together for the second. It helps sometimes to pretend to be a radio host.

Third, while we’re not on the level of the entertainment industry when it comes to self congratulation, we do sometimes tend to think highly of ourselves, or at least of what we do for a living. Knowing this is important and makes it possible to approach the subject fairly.

We provided some indication how many journalism programs are out there in the high schools. I’ve since received an answer from all but one of the principals I asked. Here’s the list of local high schools and whether they have a journalism class and/or a newspaper/online news outlet.

Bainbridge — Yes on both.
Bremerton — No.
Central Kitsap — Yes to both.
Kingston — No. One year there was a club that put out two editions.
Klahowya — The course catalog shows there is a journalism class and the school does have a newspaper.
North Kitsap — Yes, but both could be cut next year.
North Mason — No.
South Kitsap — Yes on both, but are considering whether to continue.

For me one of the more interesting points to the story was made by Le Anne Wiseman, director of the High School Journalism Initiative for the American Society of News Editors. Early last decade our industry’s downfall was predicted and sometimes celebrated by those who figured a nation of bloggers would take up the news gathering role we in traditional media had done. It is true that anyone with an Internet connection can be a reporter and that maybe about 0.5 percent of those who started blogs have yet to grow tired of writing for them. (That statistic is phony, made up to exaggerate. The actual figure in 2008 was 5.5 percent, according to this story quoting a stat from Technorati. To be considered among that 5.5 percent you had to update your blog once in the past four months.)

Bloggers didn’t go away, necessarily. Many of them migrated to Facebook, Twitter and to the end of stories written by traditional journalists. That is reality, one that would be better if everyone of them employed journalistic standards in commenting and editorializing. (The best editorial writers do some reporting; they don’t just regurgitate talking points.) People complain about commenter anonymity, but I’m fine with anonymous commenters if they are good reporters.

So I would love to see every student in every high school in America required to take at least one rigorous journalism course. I want them to be required to interview both or all sides on an issue, to consider how their own biases could be affecting a story, to continue digging when something doesn’t make sense, to go back and ask more questions and to subject what they write to an editor or multiple editors. Chances are the new world of online chatter would not change all that much. But even a little would make me very, very happy.