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Journalists say news industry is good at getting stories out but bad at getting them right

TCS Wire

June 17, 2022

A new survey published by Pew Research on journalists’ opinions of the news industry found the most common answer to the question of what the industry is worst at is “Getting the story right.”

Journalists say the industry is fast but often inaccurate
Journalists say the industry is fast but often inaccurate

According to Pew Research, researchers asked nearly 12,000 American journalists a pair of open-ended questions on what the news industry is the best and worst at, with responses then categorized into nine broad categories.

The survey found that 23 per cent of respondents said that they thought the news industry was the best at “Getting the news out,” while 23 per cent of respondents also said that the news industry was worst at “Getting the story right.”

According to one journalist with more than 20 years of experience, “Dealing with the unceasing flood of dis- and misinformation” was an issue, while another experienced journalist said those in the industry didn’t dig deep enough when reporting.

However, another journalist said that “Sticking to the facts” is what the industry, specifically the mainstream media, does best.

Being unbiased was the second most common response to what the industry does the worst job at, with 20 per cent of respondents giving this answer.

“Too much editorializing and not enough straight reporting,” comments a journalist with more than 20 years in the industry.

“Allowing personal biases/views to inundate what is solely supposed to be factual news reporting,” adds a man with 11-20 years in the news industry.

A journalist with 6-10 years in the news industry said it was worst at “Providing genuine diversity of viewpoints in coverage.”

Conversely, another journalist said, “I wish [the industry] would stop giving equal time/space to points of view that are clearly inaccurate, in an attempt to be “fair.””

While “Getting the news out” was the most common answer to what the news was best at, it was viewed as a double-edged sword, with many respondents pointing out that the speed of reporting in the digital age can hamper accuracy.

Indeed, a journalist with 1-5 years of experience singled out “Regurgitating pieces reported by other outlets” as a major issue.

This is commonly referred to in the industry as newsjacking (re-reporting other people’s stories without really adding anything new), and it’s increasingly common in online spaces and new media outlets that prioritize the quantity of articles and speed — this also often determines a freelancer’s income, adding a financial incentive to do so.

As one journalist submits, the industry often “Put[s] expedience ahead of accuracy.”

A journalist with over 20 years of experience also mentions that focusing on metrics like viewer engagement has hurt the industry, as it can impede journalists from working on “quality stories.”

On connecting with the public, another journalist said, “Paywalling news, keeping information from people who may not afford it, which creates [a] class gap of information and fuels misinformation growth because of access” was an issue, while a journalist with 1-5 years of experience lamented not connecting with people locally.

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