Monday, April 11, 2011

On the Record

In the age of immediate Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and high-speed Internet, Americans expect news immediately. I think most people would agree that we are a fast-paced society. We are impatient and we want what we want now. In the realm of journalism, reporters are very familiar with the idea of instant news and the problems that accompany that desire — like, throwing up information as soon as it is received, without fact checking. Also, news consumers are giving more attention to citizen journalists for news, because it can be a faster way to get the information.

But, there is still a clear distinction between what is mainstream and what is citizen journalism and that is, the editing process and the reporting style. Mainstream media, while they do get the facts confused sometimes and mess up, have a newsroom, with editors and, in theory, they are suppose to fact check and report as educated journalists. Citizen journalists are usually self-editors and don't follow specific rules when reporting. For example, a citizen journalist might not say, "Hello, I'm a blogger for the Huffington Post. How do you feel about the article that was recently published in Vanity Fair?" No, they are more likely to say, "What do you think of that hatchet job somebody did on you in Vanity Fair at the end of the race?" That's exactly what Mayhill Fowler did in 2008.

Fowler, however, was a hybrid citizen journalist/mainstream journalist in a sense. She bounced off of the Huffington Post and had some editing help. But she conducted herself like a citizen journalist when she asked a question to former President Bill Clinton like she was a supporter, instead of a journalist. But, what's the big deal? Well, Clinton responded with a few harsh words towards the writer of the Vanity Fair article and received backlash because of Fowler's article. But, the main controversy seems to be how Fowler approached the question.

It's clear she didn't say she was a reporter and Clinton probably wasn't expecting his comments to end up on the Huffington Post. But, why is Fowler unethical here? So, what if she wasn't a Huffington Post writer. What if she just posted his comment on her Twitter or Facebook? It's still online. A reporter from a mainstream outlet could have seen it and called her up to verify the quote. It still could have been seen by hundreds or millions of people.

I think to say the response from Clinton should have been "off the record" because of how the question was asked is ridiculous in today's world. Nothing is off the record. I don't even think that exists anymore.

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