Continuing education requirements for ALL journalists is long overdue

© 2016 Jim Spence -  It is far past the time when journalists should be required to take continuing education courses. Pay attention to what is happening out there in the world for fifty years or so and you can’t help but notice how our fundamental culture of investigative journalism has changed. Over the past few weeks I’ve documented how absurd the profession of journalism has become, with one bogus story after another plastered all over the airwaves and headlines. Even hardcore leftists are conceding that the coverage of Trump is way over the top in terms of being negative. They quickly add that this is “OK,” because he is such a reprobate and deserves it. Sadly, there is a much bigger issue to correct here than the news media hating Trump’s guts (minus Fox) or even that journalists fawned all over Obama for eight years (minus Fox of course).
Here are a couple of questions that beg answers: Is the epidemic of fake news a widespread conspiracy? Are false stories offered up intentionally by ethically-challenged journalists?
You have to take a few steps back to answer this question honestly and objectively. It is critical to understand how the investigative news reporting process has changed mightily since the days of Woodward and Bernstein. Think of the book and film, All the President’s Men. The book and film documented the mostly meticulous process of tracing the money paid to Watergate burglars by Nixon’s re-election campaign, until their work brought down a presidency. However, at one stage in the reporting process, Woodward and Bernstein took a bad short cut when they published a bogus assertion regarding grand jury testimony. Woodward and Bernstein made the mistake of answering a question in their story that was never asked at the grand jury proceeding. Forty-three years ago there was hell to pay for journalists reporting in error.
Let’s fast forward to 2017. This is the year when the media seems to be publishing and then pulling, retracting, or correcting a false story every week. And every single story that has been corrected or pulled, has been a phony negative story AGAINST Trump. How can it be that the news media’s mistakes are all harmful to one side? Isn't this evidence of a conspiracy? Are journalists intentionally running with negative stories about Trump they know to be false?
My answer would be NO they are not......but with a caveat. In a brilliant column over the weekend Jonah Goldberg suggests that what journalists are no longer bothering to do is vet the stories they want very much to be true. Instead they just run them. It is mindful of what Dan Rather did at CBS to harm the Bush campaign in 2004. Rather’s sloppy unprofessional behavior forced him to resign in disgrace. Amazingly, behavior like Rather’s now occurs on a weekly basis these days.
Did Dan Rather knowingly run with a false story? I don’t think so. Rather simply wanted the false story to be true so much, he essentially believed it without doing any real work to verify it. There is a distinction between lying intentionally and believing someone else’s lie. Sadly, Rather was already DEEP in unprofessional territory when he crossed the line. He got what he deserved.
Over the last couple of months I have urged readers to buy a copy of, The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote. CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson should be given a medal for writing this book.
It might be time for journalism schools to use this work as a textbook to clean up their profession. It is strange that journalists are one of the few professions that do not, through self-regulation, require continuing education. The arrogance shows.
There are still a few people left in the journalism profession who are not simply naked partisan advocates. But they are getting harder to find. Sadly, because government is so powerful and the stakes in elections are so high, journalists are being overwhelmed by information from hundreds if not thousands of shady political operatives who try to herd them like cattle or sheep in the direction they want them to go. Reporters want the tripe they are fed to be true. So they run with it because they by and large are not disciplined professionals. In the end, as long as 80-90 percent of all journalists want every negative story plant they are fed by smear merchants to be true, the vetting of all the crass anti-Trump propaganda will be minimal just as the pro-Obama propaganda was.
One aspect of this national disgrace that is almost comical is how many journalists scratch their heads and wonder why the news media and journalists are despised by a vast majority of Americans in every poll. This is called denial. It is time for continuing education classes to be required of journalists.