Think Like A Reporter

One unit I used to teach way back when was on journalism.  Even though it was a long time ago and everyone’s access to information has changed significantly, the basic principles haven’t.  The reason I mention this is that it’s also a critical factor in being a good executive and managing your business.  So first some general points and then an example.

Old News - canon rebel t2i

(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I used to tell the students to doubt everything.  If they hear a “fact” it was their job to find another source to confirm it.  If it came out of research, look into who did the research and why for signs of inherent bias.  It they heard or read it from an individual, ask questions – how do you know this, where did you learn it, do you have proof it’s true.  I’d remind them of something that I think is even more true now:  reporters are supposed to be “fair.”    There is supposed to be some objectivity in what they do and critical thinking – separating fact from fiction – is key.

We used to spend time on news vs. opinion and discuss how news informs while opinion persuades.  News presents all the facts; opinion presents only those that support the position taken.  One is objective; the other subjective.  As an aside, this is probably the biggest difference with almost all “news” today.

Example:  the plane crash in SF last weekend.  Within minutes, social media was filled with photos, witness reports, and statements by people allegedly on the flight.  I assume that the folks at the news networks follow Twitter and other sources yet nothing was said by any of them for 15-20 minutes.  Is that a failure?  Not in my eyes.  Clearly SOMETHING was going on but what?  Was it a crash or a training exercise or a movie shoot?  Saying “there’s a lot of activity on social media about something going on at SFO” is factually correct but says nothing.  So they waited to verify the information and then acted.

All of the above is critical when you’re in business.  I’m sure you see dozens of “facts” every day, whether they’re memoranda, data, presentations, or just conversations.  Acting on any of that information without thinking like a reporter can be fatal.  We need to make informed decisions and having the wrong information will make those decisions suffer.  You agree?

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2 responses to “Think Like A Reporter

  1. Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, dislikes journalists’ modern perception of balance. “Straight news is not what it used to be,” he says. “It has fallen into a bizarre notion that substitutes something called ‘balance’ for what used to be called ‘accuracy’ or ‘truth’ or ‘objectivity.’ That may be because of a general postmodern malaise in society at large in which the notion of a truth doesn’t have the same reputation it used to, but, as a consequence, straight journalists both in print and in broadcast can be played like a piccolo by people who know how to exploit that weakness.

  2. Laverne J. Frost

    The use of press releases is common in the field of public relations (PR). Typically, the aim is to attract favorable media attention to the PR professional’s client and/or provide publicity for products or events marketed by those clients. A press release provides reporters with an information subsidy containing the basics needed to develop a news story. Press releases can announce a range of news items, such as scheduled events, personal promotions, awards, new products and services, sales and other financial data, accomplishments, etc. They are often used in generating a feature story or are sent for the purpose of announcing news conferences , upcoming events or a change in corporation. Uncritical use or overuse of press releases by journalists has been dubbed churnalism .

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