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Back-And-Forth Now Part of News Investigations

May 27, 2016

Journalism isn't about popularity. Reporters investigate and prepare stories independent of the people they interview, and sometimes, the targets of a story or the public are unhappy with the result.

A few decades ago, when newspapers were the dominant media, the reaction was criticism was succinct and to the point.

For example, when Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were covering the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon, his staff and campaign and countless other politicians blasted the Post’s coverage.

And Post editor Ben Bradlee famously replied to the most serious criticism with five words: "We stand by our story."

But there’s something different happening now, said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Increasingly media today are taking the criticism and rebutting it, point-by-point, she said.

“It’s a reflection of the new media ecosystem that we live in. It used to be that the editors though when they responded to a criticism, they were causing more attention (to be paid) to that criticism. They believed that gave the criticism more credibility,” she said. “And that actually was true in the old system.”

News consumers are the big winners in this, McBride said. If they are willing to read stories, and rebuttals, they have more information available in which to make up their own mind about a news investigation.

“Now in this world of infinite news, the consumers are flooded with so much information you really do, if you are an editor, to respond to a criticism because consumers can choose what they want to consume. And if they are interested in your response, they’ll look for it.”