From the Clocktower – Are you sure your news is trustworthy?

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starting to think that Nov. 7, 2012, is going to be my favorite day of this year. I simply cannot wait until this election is over.

We go through this every year, with the negative campaigning. Obviously, despite how much people complain about it, the negative campaigning must work; if it didn’t, candidates would have stopped it by now.

And it seems like it’s uglier this year than it’s ever been before – especially on the local level.

Negative campaigning gets easier and easier, with the development of technology, and the more pervasive the Internet becomes – and as a journalist, I find it more and more horrifying.

These days, it seems that anyone can set up a boilerplate website, and suddenly hold themselves out as a credible news source. But what people have to look at, particularly around election time, is whether or not the websites you’re looking to for information really are credible. Are your news sources really ethical?

I like to think that after 140 years, the Post-Register has established itself as a credible news source. Sure, we don’t always report on the stories that people are talking about, but I can promise you that we only report on the stories we can prove. We won’t hold a rumor, conjecture or a half-truth out as “news,” and we certainly won’t publish a story without seeking to tell the sides of everyone involved.

Lately, there is an organization holding itself out as a local “newspaper,” that is doing just that. With very little identification or reason, there is a website which has waged an attack on a particular candidate, and suggesting that the local newspapers in Lockhart and Luling are lax because we aren’t covering the same “story.”

Interesting to note, however, that this website has been active for at least four years, and has covered exactly one story, and covered it twice – once before the 2008 election, and again now, a week before the beginning of early voting.

Of course, the website does not list its owner. It does not identify a reporter, and though it says it intends to seek out the other side of the story, it has not yet bothered to do so – nor do I think it means to.

As a person who has spent the bulk of her adult life studying journalism and trying to make myself a better (and a more ethical) reporter, I have to wonder how in the world anyone can trust anything an anonymous website says.

Because the laws governing the Internet are not as strict as those governing “real” newspapers, they can get away with a lot more. Internet “newspapers” can tell half the truth – if they bother with the truth at all. They don’t have to identify themselves or their reporters, and they have no fear of reprisals if they make a mistake or if they lie outright.

Online “newspapers” that won’t identify themselves are nothing more than digital water coolers.

To be clear, I’m not worried about “competition.” The Post-Register has been serving this community for 140 years, and we intend to continue doing so. We intend to continue bringing the community reliable, factual news.

And every week, we will continue to put our names on that news – we will continue to stake our professional reputations on the truth of the stories that we tell.

That’s what credible news organizations do.

kathibliss@post-register.com

 

1 Comment

  1. Jackie Rivera says:

    Well said and thank you!

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