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Public faith: Journalism experts recommend reporters return to basics


Reported by Laura Brougham

Newspapers are scattered throughout Langara’s cafeteria, but many students spend lunchtime on their cellphones instead. Photo by Caitlin O’Flanagan

Media veterans believe that a return to principles will help rebuild public trust.

Journalism is based on reporting facts and going out into the field to interview people, but the Internet has changed the way stories are reported. Many stories are now done now without leaving the newsroom, changing the dynamic between the public and reporters.

Is objectivity a newsroom necessity?

The B.C./Yukon representative for the Canadian Association of Journalists, Dale Bass, thinks journalists spend too much time in newsrooms to understand their readers’ interests.

“We need to go back to when we weren’t just writing and rewriting press releases,” said Bass. “If you’re a reporter, you have to get off your butt, get out of your office, talk to people, listen to people and answer their questions.”

Bass is also thinking about the idea of neutrality.

“I wonder sometimes about the veil of objectivity we all have, and whether we need to continue promulgating that,” said Bass. “Should journalists protest? I don’t know.”

Rob Dykstra on keeping reporters accountable

Rob Dykstra, former chair of Langara’s journalism department, believes reporters should remember their role in serving the public interest.

“Journalists have a lot of integrity in terms of presenting information that’s based on facts, and not working opinions into stories,” he said.

Dykstra thinks many news outlets rely too much on company-sponsored press releases to fill pages because they are short-staffed.

“They will generally pick those up and run them,” he said, often not realizing “the vested interest behind that story.”

Steven Malkowich, executive vice-president of Alberta Newspaper Group, accused blogs of contributing to damaged reputations of the media.

“If we write something that is fake, or disingenuous, we’ll get sued,” said Malkowich. “But on the Internet you can just say whatever and nobody gets sued. There’s no deterrent to doing it.”

According to Dykstra, this works against journalism principles and the integrity of fact-based reporting.


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