Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Pure facts are not enough"

The Baron is a website published and edited by former Reuters correspondent, editor and manager Barry May.  It serves as a kind of virtual watering hole for Reuters employees and provides company news, event information, directories, a library, videos featuring Reuters executives, and company trivia.

In a video posted on the site, former Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, who has an amusing habit of publicly revealing too much information, speaks to the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong about coverage of the global financial crisis and its lessons for journalists as reflected by Reuters' philosophical approach to news reporting:
"If we have learned anything from these past two years, it has been that pure facts are not enough. The arguments about whether the factual seeds of the financial crisis have been adequately reported are ultimately meaningless.  The facts were there but they weren't put together in a way that was compelling enough or powerful enough to change the course of events.  Today, it's context, connectedness, and community that matter.  Context, connectedness, and community. [...]  It's the context and analysis around the news that helps people make better decisions, helps them to do their jobs better, and gives them an edge in making sense out of the confusion around us. [...] The more you abandon the faceless and the characterless, the more you can actually set the agenda.  The more you look beyond the story for connections, the more value you will have.  And if you have value and no one else does, you will get paid."
Although Schlesinger highlights coverage of the financial crisis to illustrate his point, it's clear he is generalizing his advice to all areas of news reporting.  And there, as they say, is the rub.  Schlesinger, Editor-in-Chief at the time for the largest multimedia news company in the world, one purportedly committed to a corporate governance charter and handbook of journalism which expressly forbid its correspondents from embellishing the facts or engaging in advocacy journalism, is openly encouraging ... advocacy journalism. 

You see, it's no longer sufficient to report the facts; they must be "put together" in a way that is "compelling" enough to "change the course of events".  This, so the correspondent can "set the agenda", add value, and "get paid".

Hmm, we think we're finally beginning to understand the Reuters approach to journalism.

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