He said, she said

Media scholar Jay Rosen on the state of he said, she said journalism.

(A) lot of people are onto “he said, she said” journalism; they understand how lame it is. Among them is Andrew Donohue, the editor of Voice of San Diego, which is one of the best born-on-the-web news sites to have emerged in the last few years. In reply to my exchange with NPR he agreed to send me Voice of San Diego’s “new reporter orientation” guidelines. They’re not an ethics code, exactly– more of an “expectations code.” As you’ll see, the guidelines explicitly warn new reporters away from the “he said, she said” approach.

He said, she said, is basic and straightforward. It is not with out critics and it certainly has positive traits. We talk about it to demonstrate the goal of balance, so as to ward off undue bias. But, the Voice of San Diego guidelines make terrific points, too.

Rosen includes the Voice of San Diego (a terrific news outlet) guidelines in his post. Here are their bullet points, but go check out Rosen for the details:

  • We only do something if we can do it better than anyone or if no one else is doing it.
  • There is no such thing as objectivity.
  • Our bent: Reform. Things can always be better.
  • Be the expert.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Care about your beat more than anyone else.
  • Focus on big problems.
  • If you can’t find a good answer any of these three questions, drop the story
  • Avoid ‘churnalism’
  • Avoid the news voice whenever possible.
  • Bring us in the implications, not the event.
  • Don’t be boring. People don’t spend their free time on boring things.
  • Don’t tell me stories about “critics” or “some”
  • Have fun! Be creative! Push the envelope!

The detail that goes with those bullets are worth reading.

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