Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

By Christopher Harper

Journalists have no idea how little their readers and viewers trust the media.

That’s readily apparent from a new analysis from the Pew Foundation, which found that “overall, journalists give themselves relatively high marks on performing several of the core functions of journalism. The public, however, does not see it the same way.” See

The survey should be required reading for the media!

Sixty-five percent of journalists surveyed think news organizations reported news accurately. That compares with only 35 percent of the public.

A significant majority—83 percent—of journalists think their audience trusts the news organization they work for. Another 13% said their audience has some trust, while just 3% said their audience has “a little” or no trust at all.

Here, journalists are entirely out of touch with reality. Only 29 percent of the public said they trust the media, while 27 percent say they have some trust. A plurality—44 percent—reported that they have “a little” or no trust.

Some of the other findings include the following:

–Fifty-two percent of journalists think they do a good job playing the watchdog over government. Only 29 percent of the public agreed.

–Forty-six percent of journalists think they give voice to the underrepresented. The public provides a rating of 24 percent. 

–Forty-three percent of the media think the industry does a good job of correcting misinformation. The public puts that figure at 25 percent. 

Another disparity between journalists and the public is how much reporters think they are “connected” to their audiences, while readers and viewers disagree.

Among journalists, close to half—46 percent–said they feel extremely or very connected to their audience, while another 37 percent said they feel somewhat connected. Far fewer—16 percent—said they feel little or no connection.

Underlining how out of touch journalists really are, the public sentiment is almost exactly the opposite.

Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said they are extremely or very connected to news organizations, far lower than the 46 percent of journalists who feel extremely or very connected to their audiences. 

Another 37 percent said they feel somewhat connected to their primary news sources, while 36 percent feel little to no connection.

In many cases, the media have become part of the American elite rather than remained part of the body politic. Reporters often look down on their readers and viewers and have increasingly little contact with real people.

Whatever the case, I think the media can’t regain the public’s confidence. After nearly 50 years as a reporter and a journalism professor, these development makes me both angry and sad. 

The wusses of journalism

Posted: April 5, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

Temple University has determined that its journalism graduates are having a tough time.

In an announcement, the administration said: “[W]e are seeing an increase in our journalism graduates go into their first jobs and leave before their first contracts are up. Some of our alumni are telling us they just weren’t prepared for the stress and the challenges they are facing.

“We all know it’s always been difficult to adjust to those first years in the field, but between the pandemic and a growing number of people who think journalists are ‘fake news,’ in addition to many other new challenges, we are losing some of our best potential journalists.”

I am admittedly old school. But I’m amazed at how journalism graduates and current practitioners have become wusses.

In my first few years in journalism, I covered demonstrations, terrorist attacks, a civil war, and mass murder.

I am not alone in my amazement. New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg called his younger colleagues “little dweebs” and “f—ing bitches” for “going on about their trauma” from the events on January 6, 2021.

In a hidden-camera video, Rosenberg called the mainstream media’s reaction to the events “over the top.”

He joked, “I know, I’m supposed to be traumatized.”

During much of my career in training journalists, I assigned students to some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city to find stories that demonstrated the true nature of the locales.

My colleague Linn Washington, a longtime Philadelphia journalist, and I created Philadelphia Neighborhoods, an award-winning news organization.

From 2007 to 2013, our students told the stories of poor neighborhoods throughout the city, providing a much subtler view of how people—whatever their income and education—just wanted to have safe streets, a future for their children, and a way to make a good living.

The experience also toughened up student journalists who had rarely strayed outside of their comfort zone.

I’m not entirely sure what happened in the past decade, but I am saddened that some journalism students at Temple, which has a motto of “Temple Tough,” have gotten soft.

But what has happened at Temple is indicative of what has happened in much of the news media.


Posted: August 17, 2021 by chrisharper in Uncomfortable Truths
Tags: ,

By Christopher Harper

When I joined the Associated Press in Chicago, “-30-“ signaled the end of a story. Depending on the source, the designation apparently began in the Civil War as a typesetter’s code. In recent years, it has been the name of a movie starring Jack Webb and even the title of the final episode of The Wire.

After 50 years as a reporter and a journalism educator, I have decided to place a -30- on my career and hang up my green eyeshade, pica pole, and glue pot. I’ll retire on July 1, 2022.

I joined the academy after more than years in journalism at the AP; Newsweek in Chicago, Washington, and Beirut; and ABC News in Cairo, Rome, and New York.

A couple of years after I started in journalism at the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Watergate was reaching its crescendo, and I had an opportunity to do some reporting on the events that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. After that, I covered the deaths at Jonestown, Guyana, the Iran hostage crisis, three wars, numerous terrorist attacks, and several investigations into major corporations, such as Federal Express.

When I started in the academy in 1994 at New York University, the internet played virtually no role in journalism. The internet had virtually no penetration until AOL marketed its service. People reached the internet via what was called a “handshake,” a ka-chunk-chunk sound that screeched through telephone lines.

A few years later, I wrote a book that looked at the future of online journalism. Few journalism educators and working editors paid much attention to the implications of the internet, although I was able to teach some of the first classes in multimedia design and journalism at New York University, Ithaca College, and Temple University. At the latter, I helped start a journalism website in 2007,, which reported on low-income and minority locales that got little positive attention in the mainstream media.

Today, however, the state of journalism and journalism education are far less rosy than in my days as a reporter and my days as a teacher.

First, most people don’t trust journalists anymore. Reporters have always been nosy sorts and not well-loved. But many people saw a role for journalists to keep tabs on government actions.

The reappearance of the partisan press, particularly during the Trump years, has left many with a negative view of what the media do.

I don’t see much journalism can do about the lack of trust. I think the only possibility is to emphasize accuracy above all else—as well as to incorporate as many voices as possible into the debate about the country’s future. Even so, the media are so badly broken that I’m not sure that any new bridges can be built between journalism and its public.

Second, the media failed to respond to the massive intrusion of the tech companies—Google, Facebook, and others—into the news business. Again, it may be too late to force these companies to pay for the news and information that should be a violation of copyright. But the media companies have failed to press their case in the courts.

Third, although some of my students have gone on to excellent careers in places like ESPN, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and various local news organizations, the number of people interested in journalism has plummeted.

When I started at Temple in 2005, more than 800 students majored in journalism. Today, that number is roughly half. I can’t say I blame students who face limited job prospects and mediocre salaries. But no one ever went into journalism to become wealthy.

Moreover, the number of educators who practiced journalism for more than a few years has been declining dramatically over the past decade or so. As a result, students learn more about social issues than storytelling.

I’m thankful of all the opportunities I’ve had to travel the world on the bank accounts of news organizations and universities and the ability to witness important events throughout the world. But as I mosey off into the sunset, I wish I could be more optimistic about the craft I plied for more than 50 years. Alas, I cannot.

During the 25 years I have taught writing, I have complained frequently about how K-12 educators pay little attention to the building blocks of grammar, punctuation, and style.

In the past, students have accepted the need to learn these elements of writing. Now that’s changed.

I am teaching a month-long course in journalism history, which requires a great deal of writing.

For the first time ever, students feel emboldened enough to complain publicly that I deduct points, generally a full grade, when they make three errors or more.

“You keep dropping me entire letter grades for tiny, insignificant grammatical errors. I’ve never had a teacher complain about my grammar,” one student wrote. “Considering most of your students are juggling school, work, and the ramifications of a global pandemic, I don’t think this is the time for harsh grading.”

Another told me he checked with a website editor who said the grammar was fine. I noted 18 errors in a submission of 500 words.

Here’s what I wrote to all of the students:

After more than 25 years as a journalist at The Associated Press, Newsweek, and ABC News, I decided to teach writing. Since I joined academia, I have written and edited seven books. I’ve also written for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and online publications. 

As such, I take writing quite seriously.

If a writer fails to understand the basic tenets of grammar, punctuation, and style, myriad problems occur.

First, readers and viewers get hung up on the errors, known as creating “noise” in communications theory. For example, I once did a major investigation of prisons, which began with a visual of geese over a Wisconsin jail. I referred to the geese as Canadian geese. Such birds are called Canada geese. At least 100 of the 20 million viewers of the documentary scolded me for the error. That means that at least 100 people stopped watching something important because I made a style error.

Second, readers and viewers may question the accuracy of the information provided if basic rules are not followed.

Third, I had the luxury of having excellent editors who would challenge almost anything I wrote. Today, there are virtually no editors who look over reporters’ shoulders for errors of grammar, punctuation, style, and most importantly, accuracy.

Lastly, if you seek employment in journalism, advertising, or public relations, you will likely have to take a writing test, which is intended to determine your abilities in accuracy, grammar, punctuation, and style.

Since this course is a writing class in the Department of Journalism, I think it’s essential that someone care about such matters.