Newsweek, continued

Newsweek, continued

: Jay Rosen says the only source we had in the Newsweek story was Newsweek itself. And that was not a reliable source, as it turns out.

Under these conditions, it is imperative that journalists in the United States raise their standards for reliability, because the consequences of being wrong–for themselves, for their profession as a whole, and for others far removed–are graver. The most difficult part of raising standards is not to figure out what to do that might improve reliability, but to admit that standards weren’t as high as they could have been in the first place.

For professionals who have achieved a certain standing this is hard because it requires some humbling first: We aren’t as good as we need to be. But the alternatives are worse. Instead of improving reliability, the press can simply become more timid, reducing risk by increasing its own toothlessness. It can fall back into formalisms of the “he said, she said” variety, and never really try to figure out the truth. It can switch the mission to entertainment, and select news that way. There is always denial that anything is different today, a favorite among the crumudgeon class.

The Periscope item in the May 9th issue of Newsweek is a creature from an earlier climate of credibility: when a single-source story was good enough; when anonymous was okay as long as you trusted “your guy” at the Pentagon or the DA; when the consequences of being wrong were not as great, as instant, or as global; when the game of being first–which always meant more to journalists than anyone else–could go on as if it had intrinsic value to the public.

A good analysis.