Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Reliable Source

Where do you get your local news?

I ask this question because I’ve seen a number of people complain that they don’t want to read newspaper articles if they have to pay for them. We’ve talked about that here before. Journalists need to eat, etc. This isn’t another impassioned treatise on subscribing to local papers (but, come on, you should.) It’s about where you get your news.

Journalists are highly trained professionals and they must follow a code of ethics. There are professional standards they are bound to uphold. When you are thinking about who you trust for your local news, this should be a big deal.

Increasingly it seems that it isn’t.

Many of us hang around in online social media groups like workers around the proverbial water cooler. It’s fun to shoot the breeze, as it were. But this isn’t news. These days it’s more like unchecked sharing of misinformation with a few tidbits of truth here and there in the mix. Treating that like news isn’t just inaccurate, it’s dangerous.

People are making decisions on courses of action that they will take based on something somebody said to somebody else about something they heard that happened somewhere else.

Playing telephone is a party game. It is no way to participate in a community process like redistricting, for example.

Board of Education member Jen Mallo was startled to discover supposed online experts holding forth on her position. She pushed back:

I have heard that people are claiming to have "good sources" about what Board member Mallo's position on the proposed attendance area changes is...

Strange--I have a good source that tells me that Mallo is taking her responsibility seriously to study the proposal before forming an opinion and that she doesn't anticipate taking a public position until she does. Of the 701 polygons, 98 are proposed to move at the elementary level, 27 at the middle school level and 120 at the high school level--Mallo understands it is a lot to study and understand.

My source indicates that she is actively reviewing every single polygon recommended to transition from "walkers" to 'riders".  My source also indicates that she is looking at both the current and the proposed transportation times and costs.  

My source told me that Mallo is reviewing all the feedback she is receiving and is tracking concerns of the residents by polygon.  

My source further stated that Mallo participated in the last review of policy 6010 which instructs the Board and the Administration on how to implement changes in attendance areas.  Mallo thinks following the policy is pretty important. 

That said, my source told me that Mallo doesn't anticipate arguing individual points for or against the proposal until she feels that she has done her homework--and that is unlikely to happen until all the residents of the county have had the opportunity to express their views during the scheduled public forums.

We may not always like what we read in the newspaper. But it is important to understand the difference between journalism and social media posts. The latter are not subject to fact-checking. No one is doing the research to find out whether the poster has a vested interest in a particular outcome. When people you don’t know are saying all the things you want to hear that doesn’t automatically make them truth tellers.

It gives one a sense of validation to see lots of folks sharing our point of view. But that’s not news. That’s just how social media works.

You know what else isn’t journalism?


Yep, we bloggers have plenty to say and no doubt we care about our communities a lot. But we are not journalists. We get to choose what we write a about and what we don’t. We may share information but more often our work is in the realm of commentary. There’s a big difference.

I love, love, love having people read and engage with my blog. Under no circumstance would I want to be mistaken for “the news”. I have way too much respect for local journalists to want anyone to get that impression.

So when it comes to local news, make sure it comes from a reliable source.

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