Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not Every Writer Is A Journalist

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states simply that one cannot observe something without changing it.

Every good journalist understands this and keeps it in the back of their mind as they do their best to objectively portray events happening around them without influencing those events at the same time.

I worked as a journalist for more than a decade and I know the feeling. It's tricky, at best, and damn near impossible at worst. A politician sees you and alters the tone of his speech; a firefighter knows you're listening and decides not to talk about some crucial detail about the cause of the fire for fear his words might come back to haunt him later; police refuse to divulge details of a crime to you for fear of spooking a suspect, even though those details might prompt a witness to come forward.

As I said, good journalists recognize this fact and try their best to handle the story properly.

Then there are "Journalists", professional bloggers or reporters who intentionally try to provoke groups or individuals to produce what they feel is a more accurate portrayal of events. This usually ends-up being labeled as "gotcha journalism" which discredits the entire industry.

You will see examples of this in stunts concocted by "journalist" James O'Keefe. He feels it is his duty as a "journalist" to trick people into saying things which prove the points he is trying to make about them. No matter that a true journalists job is to simply tell an objective story about what is taking place.

The same can be said for a number of other professional writers who pass themselves off as journalists but are really nothing more than story-tellers, interested only in their own point of view and proving it.

Patrick Howley, assistant editor at the conservative magazine based in Arlington, Va., wrote in a blog post that he was one of a “select few” protesters willing to storm the entrance to the museum and that he “may have been the only one” who made it inside.

Some supporters of the protesters criticized Howley, branding him an “agent provocateur” who tried to discredit the movement by inciting violence.

Howley’s account of the matter was altered after it was initially posted online Saturday evening. In his original post, he wrote that he had infiltrated the protesters “in order to mock and undermine (them) in the pages of The American Spectator.”

The post that appeared online Monday did not include that phrase, with Howley writing instead that he had participated in the demonstration “for journalistic purposes.”

Howley could not be reached Monday, and his editors did not return messages seeking comment.

To read more about Howley's "journalism" click here.

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