Tag Archives: Government

Journalism training rules

Reading the KC Star’s opinion column from Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times News Service,  I was reminded of some very important rules that the Mizzou’s School of Journalism included in our training.  My degree was in news ed, and the Columbian Missourian instructors really hammered at us to use some very primary rules of reporting:

  1.  Follow the money.  Whenever trying to investigate a story that seemed questionable, follow the money.  Another words, looking at city, county, state, or federal government, follow the money.  If an individual was living differently than one might anticipate for their position, follow the money.  If an organization, especially when using public money, could not explain its budget, follow the money.
  2. Get the story from three different sources.  If a reporter can substantiate a story from three different sources, the likelihood is that there is a true story to report.  Of course, the reporter must be responsible enough to locate three different, unrelated sources to substantiate the story.
  3. Check your quotes.  When taking notes, make sure they are accurate even checking them with the person before walking away.  When using a direct quote, read it back to that person to make sure it is accurate and to let them know that you are planning on using it.  When using an indirect quote, also check it with the person being quoted.

Needless to say, journalists have taken a beating considering the entire tirade calling the news “fake.”  But, I firmly believe that trained journalists who remain faithful to the Canons of Journalism, the Journalist’s Creed, and the principles the universities taught, are reporting real news.  If they are responsible, then no one can support such accusations.

Sadly, the immediacy in which the news is transmitted leads to mistakes–many times a listener’s misunderstanding rather than the report.  At all cost, the headlines need to be direct and unbiased.  Listeners need to turn to fuller reports whether through further web research or through more traditional sources as the written word in newspapers and magazines (which are sadly unable to sustain the cost of publication).

Recently a news article concerning the deportation of a professor more fully explained the circumstances that lead to ICE’s attempt to deport him.  The story continues, but as so often is the case, the full story is not able to be broadcast in the 30-60 second sound bites.  The story is complicated, and it takes study to follow and understand it.  We still do not have the whole story, I am afraid.

But back to Friedman’s editorial, Whatever Trump is hiding is hurting all Americans now. Regardless of one’s personal stand, the article reminds us to follow the money.  In our government, serving in an elected position places one’s life under the microscope.  If reporters cannot follow the money, that leaves so many questions unanswered.

My fear is that by the labeling of news as fake, the work of our journalists is compromised.  If the profession of journalism is not allowed to function freely in our democracy, then how can we check the three branches of our government.  We need ethical journalists to keep our elected officials accountable now, just as we did during Watergate.

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Let’s rethink lobbying: What is best?

My friend reminded me that lobbying is a concern.  I agree and had considered making a statement concerning the idea that has now become a profession when it should not.

Before I spoke, though, I thought I should do a little review.  I started with the US Constitution.  I pulled up the full text and did a simple search for these terms:  lobby, lobbying, and lobbyist.  I was not surprised–none of these terms are in the entire constitution.

Therefore, the next step–federal laws.  Yes, there are laws, in fact each state have laws to regulate lobbying.  Interestingly, the laws are very similar and include a monetary limit on gifts that must be reported.

A monetary limit to gifts!  Why should lobbying involve any form of gifting?  Check the definition of lobbying:

 Definition of lobby [Accessed on February 13, 2018 at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lobby]:

1 a corridor or hall connected with a larger room or series of rooms and used as a passageway or waiting room
2 a group of persons engaged in lobbying especially as representatives of a particular interest group

Definition of lobby [Accessed on February 13, 2018 at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lobby]:

1  A room providing a space out of which one or more other rooms or corridors lead, typically one near the entrance of a public building.

 

2  (in the UK) any of several large halls in the Houses of Parliament in which MPs may meet members of the public.  

3  A group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue.

Please notice that I have posted two different sources for the definition.  The first definition in both entries are a location, but it is the 2nd & 3rd entry that pertains to people/organizations influencing legislators.

No where in these definitions is the method of influence mentioned.  Certainly the absence of a monetary reference is obvious, so why has lobbying become so entwined with money or gifts in so many different forms become synonymous with the idea of lobbying.

In my web search, I found another website that outlines how enormously profound lobbying has become as an accepted method of monetary influence.  Checkout this website:  http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/lobbyist-regulation.aspx  [also accessed February 13, 2018].

The chart is interesting and I did read through Missouri’s, but the entry that captured my closest attention is this paragraph:

“OVERVIEW | LOBBYIST REGULATION

Lobbying—a citizens’ right to speak freely, to affect decisions and petition the government—is a crucial right, and an important part of the legislative process. This right has also created an industry whose numbers have increased dramatically. A 2006 survey by the Center for Public Integrity put the number of paid lobbyists at state legislatures at near 40,000 and growing. State lobbying laws have sprung up in response to the proliferation of the “third house” and the influence that it exerts. The details of each state’s lobbying laws differ markedly, so much so that nearly 50 different versions exist. There are common themes, however. All states define who is a lobbyist and what is lobbying, and all definitions reflect that lobbying is an attempt to influence government action. All states have lobbyist registration requirements, and all require lobbyists to report on their activities. In addition to tracking the above issues, the Center for Ethics in Government has information on lobbyist oversight entities, restrictions on the use of public funds for lobbying, lobbyist contingency fees, lobbyist identification, prohibitions against false statements and reports and legislators’ disclosure of lobbyist connections.”

Here is my concern:  Lobbying is out of control.  Influencing our legislators should not, definitely should not, involve any form of gifting.  Influence is done by word of mouth and by actions NOT by purchasing in any form.  When dollars are added into the formula of influence, then there is no level platform for influencing–those with money get the most attention.

Communicating an individual’s, a group’s, or an industry’s personal agenda is not wrong, but attaching the influence to a gift weighs the playing field.  When lobbying, the key should be what is best for the people?  What is best for the country?  What is best for our land?  Definitely NOT what is best for the corporation, the pocketbook, or any one individual!

Let’s keep the focus on what is best for all individuals, not what is the best way to buy one’s own agenda.  

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