Earlier today I explained my recent “Chilling Chromebook” writing approach, which seemingly contradicts my more pro position taken throughout 2013. Simply stated: My stance seeks to counterbalance sudden media fan frenzy—bloggers and journalists relating the same points of view because they think it’s vogue. There is too much me-too enthusiasm, rather than real reporting.
The recent rah-rah rash of “Chromebook is better than sliced bread” blog posts and news stories represent two types of contextually-relevant journalisms: advocacy and mob. Both get considerable treatment in my new book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers.
Advocacy journalism applies, since most recent news posts advocate that Chromebook threatens the Windows hegemony or gains measurable market traction—despite nearly immeasurable sales share supporting such assertions. Mob journalism fits, because bloggers and journalists write what they perceive to be in vogue.
In the first version of the book, I neglect another way to look at advocacy journalism, which defies long-held principles about objectivity. I see two responsibilities: The first is to correct the record when the news Echo Chamber booms misinformation. Just because everybody says something is true doesn’t make it so.
The second: I strongly believe that one of the journalist’s jobs is to stir up the audience pot—to get people thinking and looking from different points of view. As such, most of my news stories do not reflect my own opinion. I may write like they do, but devil’s advocate is one of my favored perspectives. I affirmatively advocate counterpoints.
So-called objective writing robs readers of perspective—strips back vital nuances essential to evaluating an event or situation. Advocacy journalism isn’t just someone taking a position and pushing it but also taking the contrary perspective. You advocate something you don’t believe for the audience’s benefit. Get them to think. To discuss. To vent. That’s a quality of good storytelling—putting the narrative first.
I often accent this counter-advocacy approach with punchy, provocative headlines—with intention to tweak someone. Based on comments, many readers assume the position taken reflects my own, in part because of my affirmative writing style bolstered by using active voice (use present tense, people). I kick the hornet’s nest, knowing it will stir up comment reaction.
Advocacy journalism, particularly pushing counterpoints, can be excellent journalism. Sometimes it’s the necessary and right response to the mob, whether readers or news gatherers writing for them. Objectivity is a ruse, because bias is inevitable and irresponsible news reporting is too commonplace.
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