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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why is journalism important?

Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at 9:50 PM

For this post, step back from your views of "liberal or conservative media bias".

Step back from allegations that all news publications are controlled by the government.

In the last two days, something important happened at the Oklahoma Daily. An autopsy report containing personal details of the deceased's body was tweeted and posted to Facebook as a separate link. I stand by the decision to link to the report via the story, because providing source documents to me signifies at least a marginal commitment to transparency. I stand by the decision not to redact the information, as the record is public anyway, news organizations frequently post un-edited autopsy reports, and a redacted report, especially when it concerns a student falling from a building, create a sense that something suspicious is being covered up.

The response from readers consisted mostly of outrage. Some were upset at the use of the word "drunk" to describe the student at the time of death (That's AP style for a person intoxicated by alcohol). Others, understandably, were upset at the contents of the report, which describe the body in (pretty vague, actually) "detail".

I will not be debating this point in the comments, as that is just background for the post.

I understood the outrage. I can see why people would be upset at the content. The report was removed from our website and an apology issued.

But a few things should be noted:

1. Remember that journalists are humans. I vented through Facebook when I had to answer the newsroom phone to be told I was (expletive with an 'F') trash, though this person did not know that I did not write the story or publish the report, nor was I within 2 miles of the newsroom when it was published. A former teacher of mine told me this: It is easy to rationalize it- why we made the decisions we did, but the comments still hurt and it take a toll. We're human. People forget that I think.

Yes, what was published hurt. We know. It isn't easy to write stories about awful things. Reporting can be a nightmare of a job sometimes. We don't really cheer when awful things happen...most of us join up because we feel a need to share truth with the world, and that is a huge burden sometimes.

2. It is appalling to me that people claiming to be Gaylord or Daily alumni are calling for the removal of the paper, or the removal of advertisers who fund quite a bit of our operations.

I can excuse those comments slightly from people with limited media experience, because they spend so much time surrounded by it they don't understand how important it is.

But from class one at Gaylord, the importance of first amendment is nothing short of beaten into our brains. No excuse for them.

If you don't think having the press is important, take a look at the hyper-government controlled media in Korea. You think the U.S. is 100 percent safe from that if we lose the ability to speak the truth without fear of retribution by the government?

You wanna get shot because you said you don't like president, and have no one know about it, because those who report on it are killed too? It happens, and Americans aren't exempt from power-hungry maniacs. Free press facilitates change. It exposes flaws in the system and in government. Regardless of if you think it's biased, it encourages action simply by providing knowledge that something is happening. That's a powerful thing.

Whether it's providing information on resources for transfer and international students or letting you know that it was not a flaw in University safety regulations that contributed to a death, knowledge is important. Our goal at the Daily (paraphrasing from memory) is to provide citizens with the information to be free and self-governing."

Sure, get rid of the OU Daily.

I've jumped through so many hoops to get interviews and photos for stories that don't have bad news in them. I couldn't get an interview with a transfer student representative before my deadline today. The story was an informational piece about what resources transfer students have on campus. I was told it would take over 15 hours because the man's supervisor wanted to approve his answers before they were published.

And that's fairly harmless.

The University (and the government) try VERY hard to control their image. Why call for the removal of the medium by which "bad" information can be published without the punishment of the reporter/organization.

I mean...I've always wanted to know what North Korea was like.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Well Buckshot, that was an ad campaign. Advertising is not journalism. This blog is meant to create discussion regarding the fundamental reason journalism exists, not how politicians are buying ad space.

-- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Thu, Aug 23, 2012, at 8:13 AM

I don't quite understand all of the sequence of events regarding this matter. But I do know that you are a very careful girl with some great common sense.

Journalism is like a shark tank. One day you are the tank container and the next you are bait. We always seem to turn on our own when blood has been drawn.

Figure out what you have learned about this. And go on. Regardless of who said what, always remember that there are loved ones out there needing someone who will keep their standards high regardless of details.

This probably won't help much. I just wanted to say that Keep writing and trying to make a difference no matter how many doors are closed in your face.

-- Posted by KH Gal on Fri, Aug 24, 2012, at 7:41 AM

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A Different Perspective
Melodie Lettkeman
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I'm a staff writer for the Tiger Tribune, and I have a lot to say! Music, books, movie reviews, my opinions and updates around the high school.
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