The tired journalist

I’ve always been fascinated by the “art” that is journalistic writing. The journalist is often caught between conflicting factors of importance, which can make his work pretty tiring. He has to write quickly, but he needs to stay truthful. He needs to offer interesting insights, but his articles can’t be too long. His work needs to be informative, but also “nice to read”.

And sometimes it goes wrong. Even for experts.

Take Oscar Garschagen, who has been a reporter in China for NRC during a decade. Today it was published by NRC that he’ll leave the organization, since he has made “serious mistakes”[1]. He used material of other media without proper citations, attributed quotes to the wrong persons and presented blog quotes as if they were interview quotes.[2]

What a fool, you might think. And trust me, I do not approve of his actions either. But somehow, I can see where he was coming from. Especially after having read this article by Strömbäck et al.[3]

The article shows that it is rather common for journalists to not work in accordance with their news values. When “making” news, they appear to be more public-focused and process-focused than their values would allow them to be. They choose topics that are cheap and simple to cover, that are easy to explain and that contain a certain amount of drama.

Isn’t that exactly where things went wrong for Garschagen? Wasn’t it in his pursuit of efficiency, convenience and thrilling content where he lost sight of his values as a journalist? He just wanted to produce interesting stories with high readability, without having to move mountains.

Once again: I don’t seek to justify Garschagen’s actions. But I am glad that NRC has said goodbye to him respectfully. After all, he probably just needed some rest.

 

[1] Vandermeersch, Peter. “NRC-correspondent Oscar Garschagen verlaat krant na journalistieke fouten.” NRC, 20 September 2017, https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2017/09/20/nrc-correspondent-oscar-garschagen-verlaat-krant-na-journalistieke-fouten-13094272-a1574113 (accessed 20 September 2017).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Strömbäck, Jesper, Michael Karlsson, and David Nicolas Hopmann. “Determinants of News Content: Comparing journalists’ perceptions of the normative and actual impact of different event properties when deciding what’s news.” Journalism Studies 13.5-6 (2012): 718-728.

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