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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What do we know and how do we know it?

The title of this post is two things. First, it's what I've always thought was the most basic question every journalist must ask when preparing a news story.

"What do I think I know and why do I think I know it's true?" is even more important for investigative journalists and is a constant measure for the validity of what one thinks he or or she is discovering.

Second, it's veteran leftie journalist Sydney Schanberg's suggested mantra for reforming journalism of its current fascination with anonymous sources, celebrities and thoughtless acceptance of the endless stream of spin put out by politicians, elected officials, bureaucrats, advocacy groups and others involved in the public policy process.

Schanberg is not the first person I would suggest if asked who among contemporary mainstream media has something valuable to say about what is wrong with journalism and what needs to be done to fix it. But his latest piece in Village Voice is quite insightful and I find myself agreeing with most everything he says. I don't know if he or I should be more concerned about that, but there you go.

Perhaps most interestingly, Schanberg's basic point is that journalists need to be much more transparent about how they do their work. If that idea sounds familiar, it should because mainstream media critics have been making it for years, as have countless bloggers.

Still, it's good to hear someone like Schanberg saying the same thing. His column is definitely worth thinking about and passing along to your favorite journalist with a request for a response to the issues raised by Schanberg.

HT: Democracy Project's Bruce Kesler