Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Informed Decisions

In an article on Poynter Online done by Leann Frola, Christopher Ritter, Virginia Tech's The Collegiate Times' Director, said on the day of the shooting, he made a point to only put out facts a few times an hour, rather than overload with analysis. He said, "After we got the information out, then our reporters would do a story on it." I believe this was an excellent move. Ritter saw that in this case, it was journalism's duty to the public good to only produce immediately useful factual information so that V-Tech students could make informed decisions quickly without sorting through outside analysis that might not be relevant. Perhaps the main-stream press can look to Ritter for guidance on the issue of producing purely objective pieces following tragedy so that the public may gain knowledge to form opinions rather than deciding opinions off of other opinions. For example, in the case of the War in Iraq, the press, as told by writer Gary Kamiya, relyed on governmental officials and the existing public opinion to report, anaylize, and write on the War rather than grinding out the bare facts to shape public opinion. Traditionally in the United States, the public has relyed on the press to watch-dog the government and gain first or second hand information that is not available to the general public. If the trend that started with the war in Iraq continues, then the checks and balances system that has gauranteed democracy in years passed might cease to exist--returning to the old regime of three governmental branches: Judicial, Executive, and Legeslative (currently, the fourth is seen as the Press). The press must realize that opinions are not the point of reporting, they are the point of editorials. If the press continues to evolve into a model of opinions, I believe they will have failed their duty to Democracy and the American people.