Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More on transparency in journalism

Shortly after I finished my earlier post about journalism ethics and transparency, I came across an interesting piece about transparency and branding. There's a link at the end of this post, and I'd urge everyone to take a look.
My experience has been that journalists remain too elitist, too enamored of their insider information and connections to appreciate the need for openness. The hidden histories of the mainstream press are widely known among journalists, but not among news consumers. How many Americans know Andrea Mitchell is married to Alan Greenspan? How many folks know NPR congressional reporter Cokie Roberts is the daughter of two members of Congress (a fact that is omitted on her NPR bio.)
I'd argue that the lack of transparency is an even larger problem in trade journalism, particularly in the use of anonymous sources. Few B2B publishers have rigid rules on sourcing. And ABM's ethics guidelines don't discuss the issue. As a result, the B2B world is full of the weakest of all journalism phrases: "according to sources." When I question B2B reporters about that phrase I often find they are being misleading -- using the plural "sources" when they've only talked to one, favored source. And sometimes they aren't talking about sources at all, but instead use the phrase as a sort of catch-all attribution for things that "everyone" knows.
Here's my prediction: the push for transparency in journalism is about to gain strength, but not from journalists, bloggers, academics or Dan Gillmor. This change will be driven by folks on the business side who are eager to protect their brands.

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