Thursday, August 11, 2005
Conference considers the question of journalists and trust
From the AEJMC Reporter, a conference daily published for attendees of
the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
conference in San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 10-13, 2005
By Gabe Wicklund
Texas Christian University
Trust doesn't usually come free.
And, in most cases, journalists are still trying to earn it.
Charles Lewis, president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism, said
Tuesday that journalists can earn readers. trust by sharing information
that directly affects their lives.
"Trust follows from getting the inside story," Lewis said.
Tuesday's pre-AEJMC conference session, .A Wake Up Call: Can Trust and
Quality Save Journalism?. was driven by a one-year research project called
Restoring the Trust.
Speakers discussed their thoughts on whether journalism has lost the
A major change at The New York Times has been an effort to be open about
sources of information, because secrets are not helpful in gaining and
retaining readers' trust, said Neil Chase, deputy editor for NYTimes.com.
"People watch what we are doing," Chase said. "Nobody trusts anybody
However, the Times considers sources. trust important as well, as
exemplified by the jail term being served by Times reporter Judith Miller
for protecting a confidential source, Chase said.
Panelists also discussed the theory that the mainstream media is headed in
a death spiral.
Philip Meyer, author of "The Vanishing Newspaper" and a professor at the
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said the mainstream media is not
in a death spiral but is headed in other directions.
"Journalism has changed from a craft of hunting and gathering to a
processing of information," Meyer said.
He said because of a plethora of news and information available to the
public from an infinite number of sources, journalists must dig deeper
into issues to report the truth.
Clyde Bentley, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said he
does not buy the death spiral theory because news media are everywhere.
Journalists see that traditional media are declining, but they overlook
the rise of new media such as the Internet, he said.
Bentley noted that Thefacebook.com, an online network for college
students, is becoming a widespread phenomenon at many universities.
Thefacebook.com is a form of journalism because it shares information, but
most journalists are not yet willing to look at it that way, Bentley said.
Another popular form of Internet communication is blogging, which provides
ways for citizens to have journalistic voices, Bentley said.
Kathleen Richardson, a professor at Drake University, said the panelists
sounded like they had almost given up on the traditional mass media.
However, she said she thinks her students will find careers in the
magazine or newspaper business if that is what they want.
She said it is clear that the future of mass media is on the Internet, but
there will always be a need for journalists to gather information and
"Helping people make sense of their world and their communities -- that
far from dead," Richardson said.