Yes, Virginia, There Is a Journalist!

My new hero is NPR’s Michael Oreskes.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-1-38-57-pmScott Detrow had a terrific story today about Donald Trump’s appearance at a Black church. The pastor called Trump on the carpet for attacking Hillary Clinton when he had promised not to be partisan. Trump later attacked the pastor and misstated key facts about what actually happened.

Why was this story terrific? Scott was one of a handful of reporters in the church to actually witness what happened. By being present he was performing the highest function of journalism: To witness and report. Scott’s eyewitness account of what happened is the basis for most of what you have read and heard about this event. Not just on NPR, but in many other reports that relied on Scott. This has allowed millions of Americans to form their own opinions about the event. That’s our job. We give citizens the information they need to make the choices a democracy asks them to make. We should not be telling you how to think. We should give you the information to decide what you think.

Scott did that and we are proud of him.

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We want our reporting to reach as many people as possible. It is a well-established piece of social science research that if you start out with an angry tone and say something a listener disagrees with, they will tune out the facts. But if you present the facts calmly and without a tone of editorializing you substantially increase the chance that people will hear you out and weigh the facts. That is why the tone of journalism matters so much. We need potential listeners and readers to believe we are presenting the facts honestly, and not to confirm our opinions. —NPR Editor: Our Job Is To Give You The Facts, Not Tell You What To Think