PressThink.org has a very interesting post about a discussion generated by its author, Jay Rosen, concerning what he terms "he said, she said" journalism, which limits reporters' work to letting two or more opposing perspectives present evident (utter their soundbites) and then walking away; this journalism does not evaluate the evidence that sources present or are found to be relying on, when it has the resources to do so. Rosen:
“He said, she said” journalism means… #
- There’s a public dispute.
- The dispute makes news.
- No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
- The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
- The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.
A metaphor might be: "he said, she said" limits the reporter to setting the stage for a debate and moderating it, but not examining the evidence behind the debaters' claims, not seeking to confirm the veracity of claims.
As one commenter, Steve Buttry, noted, the first principle in the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics is "Seek truth and report it." "He said, she said" journalism dispenses with the "seek truth" part; it changes journalism to "Find claim-makers and have them state their claims and in equal measure." That's it.
But, as other commenters imply, can any one story on a topic, such as the NPR three-minute segment that Rosen cites, be crititiqued apart of the overall reporting of a topic over time, which may require multiple reports (articles, segments, pieces, etc.; the terms vary by media) by the same journalist(s)? As NPR's omsbudman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, stated regarding the particular NPR segment the Rosen took exception to:
It was a simple daily story that did a sufficiently good job in pulling together the facts on what happened, with analytical commentary from different sides.
Is more needed? Of course. That’s why you have follow-up stories.
Hat-tip to MUG.