14 December 2007

Ever Wonder How Journalists Get 'Terms' They Use

The media is often portrayed as lazy, out-of-touch, and downright hostile to lawful firearms ownership. This is not always the case, but the vast majority of stories out there would lend regular folks to get that impression. As a recovering journalist, myself, I saw many examples of harsh terms used because a reporter either did not like guns, or didn't understand them but had a fear of them out of ignorance (not stupidity, but lack of knowledge of their operation).

"Official" jargon dictionaries - aka stylebooks -- are used by journalists everywhere. I still have AP and UPI stylebooks within arms reach at my home office, next to dictionaries and a thesaurus or two. Here is a look at the Associated Press stylebook from 1998. The pages show how AP advises writers to use the language when they are writing about firearms.

If you see a bias creeping into the wording, you can imagine why some stories read as they do when written by journalists who innocently don't know any better, but believe they are following an accurate guide that is making their story more understandable. Still, I'll bet it's been years since most journalist have read the Canons of Journalism, if they've read them at all.

I was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists from 1980 until around five years ago. When I was a board member with the organization's professional chapter in Columbus, it was not uncommon for frequent discussion to come up regarding SPJ's Code of Ethics for journalists, and that was among ourselves -- working journalists! In fact, I was asked by faculty at The Ohio State University in the 1990s to help advise as the code of ethics used by the students at the School of Journalism was updated.

You can see why I'm so sensitive about accuracy, truthfulness in general media, and doing everything possible to eliminate bias.

h/t to Bitter

No comments: