Saturday, January 05, 2002

I Disagree
Bix has responded to my perspective on journalism with And I think the dictionary is wrong. The idea that any presentation of "facts" can be without interpretation is one of the dangerous myths of journalism.

Well, then, let me explain my position further: I think then, that those who are using certain words need to come to an agreement about how they define these words.

The pages of any newspaper contain any number of stories that are objective and simply-put-forward facts. That's also true of radio and tv news programs. Perhaps this should be called "reporting."

Then, perhaps, there's another level that can be called "journalism" that contains the perspective of the reporter.

And then, again, there's still another level that is "commentary," and that is where the writer conjectures, supposes, opinionates etc.

It seems to me various people are calling it "journalism" when they really mean one of the other two categories.

I find that discussions that don't lead to any conclusions go in circles because the discussees are using their personal definitions for the words they are using. I ran into this a lot in the field of education. Until there are accepted definitions of terms (and that's why we have dictionaries), while discussions are always interesting exercises in writing and thinking -- they aren't really productive. I remember that when I used to write "white papers" for the State Ed Department, I often began with a definition of terms, so that when discussions ensued, the real issues would be addressed and we wouldn't be stuck with each person arguing about something different based on his/her own definition of a certain word. It's amazing how much time was wasted because there were so many conceptions of what "arts-in-education" means. Once we stated what definitions we were using for specific terms, it was easier to move forward with discussions of the real issues.

For deep communication and change to happen, eveyone has to be using the same language -- or at least agree on the meaning of the fundamental terms being discussed.