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Proud to be… a blogger

By 15/04/2011One Comment

I still have it. My journalist card. To get it, I had to learn, cherish and foster a holy grail of deontological codes. Codes that for a decade drove my life. Hunting the best news, putting it in an adequate referential frame, and always… always keep three things in mind: integrity, news value, and a loving respect for the audience.  Romantic soul as I was, I went , a Knight of the Round Table of newsgathering. Abiding the rules. They are still firmly embedded in me.

What happened to those rules? What happened to earnest journalistic skills? Investigation? Pulling off pieces that you were so proud of you would frame them in your office?  It must have to do with age. Like Jeremy Clarkson, I am turning into a bitter grumpy old man. And, there are a lot of good journalists out there, surely. Some are good friends. Some are still knights.

But I do not like what I see. Every single day I see journalists complaining about bloggers and tweeps. Pointing out that those online amateurs do not have to abide by rules…

But when I see Yves Desmet, editor in chief of a notorious Belgian newspaper publicly burry twitter after trying it for a full 58 tweets… I have questions. Why did he not try it seriously? Is he aware of the impact of his words? What would he do with a trainee that would produce a similar ill-documented piece? I know that my old chief would have boxed my ears…

And when De Standaard documents that Bart De Wever changed his favorite French fries supplier from ‘t Draakske to ‘t Kriekske… why should I care? What is the value of that news for us, common mortals? Is that what the editorial power is supposed to do?

And yesterday, journalist Geenen gave Roger Vangheluwe,  former Belgian bishop at the epicenter of one of the biggest pedophile scandals a free hour long live TV forum. Vangheluwe abused two nephews, but has no plans to abandon the priesthood. As AP frames it this morning:He called 13 years of sexual abuse of one nephew which started at age 5 as no more than “a little piece of intimacy.” He said the abuse of a second nephew was very short.

Indeed. He did. Live on TV. Where was the context for the audience? The moral obligation towards the audience, which includes the victims of this man? Who authorized a livecast? Was the goal sensation and audimat? Or was it news?

What I saw had nothing to do with news. What I saw was cheap sensation. What I’m seeing more and more is that deontology became a weapon to attack others more than a way to live by…

I saw more respect, compassion and context on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere yesterday, than I’ve seen some journalists handle for a long long time.

I’m proud to be a blogger. Maybe, for some journalists it is time to put Excalibur back in the rock. You can always claim it back when you think you’re worth it again…

One Comment

  • I understand your criticism, and you’ve expressed it skillfully and with great passion, but I’m afraid I don’t agree with you.

    If we accept that the media are a business – and what other choice do we have? – we must accept that media companies need to beat their competitors from time to time. That is what VT4 did last night, and judging by the way other journalists – many of them really experienced and respected – they did this in a fair and respectful way. (Except if what Eric Goens at VTM is saying is correct, of course…) Being the first or being the only one to break a certain story – no matter how despicable the story is – is not the only way they can beat their competitors, but it is by far the most effective one. Even in days long gone, when you and I (in days slightly less long gone, I assume…) were a journalist, that was what happened all the time. The media already were a business back then, and knights were scarce back then as well – as in every other business.

    “Where was the context for the audience?”, you – and many other people – are asking. You’re right. The interview was broadcast live, without comments from experts or other people involved. Luckily, those comments came quickly afterwards, on all stations. However, as I read in the newspaper this morning, Vangheluwe himself insisted on the live broadcast – making additional comments or editing impossible. When confronted with that demand, the journalist could have decided not to do the interview. I am pretty sure that he will have considered the consequences of this way of working. That they did go with the live interview probably has two reasons: one is the commercial logic that I mentioned above. But equally important: this is what (nearly) every journalist would have done. Because this is their job: showing the world we live in the way it is. And show the people that live in it the way they are. And that is what he has done, in my view: doing his job.

    “What I saw had nothing to do with news.”, you say. That is your view, of course, but the fact that everybody has been talking about it – on Facebook and Twitter as well – points at the contrary, I’m afraid…

    And finally, I don’t like what I see either. Every day I see bloggers and Twitter and Facebook users complain about traditional media as well. People are telling me that they don’t need traditional media anymore to stay informed on what happens in the world. I think they are making a big mistake. Quite a lot of the information they find in social media comes from… well, traditional media, doesn’t it? What we see on tv or read in the papers fuel our discussions, our tweets, our Facebook statuses. On the other hand, a lot of news comes to the attention of journalists because they first surface on social media. So let’s stop this discussion whether bloggers or journalists are better or more trustworthy or respectable. In today’s world we all need each other to stay informed and keep each other informed. We should all be knights – not just the journalists.

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