Griscom: Defining effective reporting

Griscom: Defining effective reporting

May 9th, 2010 by Tom Griscom in Opinion Columns

What is good journalism?

Perhaps that should be the foundation for any number of discussions in media companies and other locations that now try to adopt the mantle of news gatherers.

At times it seems everyone is an editor, having a better idea of what is the better choice among selected stories and how they should be displayed for the consumer.

There is the list of items that in previous years were included on the printed pages, but either time or a supposed lack of interest pushed staple material into the world of cyberspace.

In shaping the "good journalism" answer, the first assumption is that no single word, phrase or person holds all the keys.

But what has to be accepted to move forward is that regardless of how one pursues the answer, one or more will always have the "Yes, but ..." response.

Good journalism is searching through the pages of a community, however defined, and sharing the images that stand either temporarily or longer term as symbols of the character and the soul of those who make up the whole.

It is the helping hand when someone is in need either at home or miles away. But it is also grappling with difficult issues, nudging the choices that some may wish to ignore to the forefront to acknowledge and attempt to solve.

It is celebrating an economic win while examining what the win will mean to quality of life over time unless the community and its leaders are prepared to wrestle with unplanned growth, inadequate infrastructure or ill-prepared graduates who struggle to fill newly created jobs.

It is being willing to insist that the legal standards for conducting meetings and sharing information be upheld, to lift the lid on those who would conduct the public's business in the darkened alleys that no one would go down.

Those who term the search for public information an abuse of power should look in the mirror before speaking. If there is nothing to hide, then there should be no issue with being open.

There is confusion that a journalist doing a job by asking the questions and seeking information is out of bounds. When the rules of engagement are known, as they are, why is there any question when they are applied?

A single, consensus definition of good journalism is elusive.

For those who practice the profession, you have to be willing to accept being blamed for the acts of others.

You have to accept the grinding that comes from those who may have bent the public trust to

their own benefit, and when found out, kick up so much sand that it is difficult to see. But facts speak loudly regardless of the deflections. The truth through all of the hubris is unveiled in the offhand comment that resembles something said by the bully in the school yard.

You take the responsibility placed in your hands to share the truth as a high standard, prepared to use the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment for a free press and willing to acknowledge when at times lines may be crossed.

That is how you begin to shape good journalism - it starts with the journalist.

To reach Tom Griscom, call 423-757-6472 or e-mail tgriscom@timesfreepress.com.