Partial taxonomy of journalistic blunders

Abused language— Adjectives and nouns matter. Resorting to euphemisms, mislabeling or selective labeling has consequences.

AstroTurf—Applying the media lens to staged demonstrations even when chanted clichés are juvenile, pathetic, and nonsensical.

Blinders— Reporting an artificially limited scope cheats readers of insight others offer.

Celebrity fetishism— People known for knowness displayed as if they have special expertise.

Contrived accents— Article placement, fact placement, all affect emphasis.

Cronyism  — Presenting views of other journalists as if news.

Echoing vicious noise— Serving noise intentionally inserted to derail discussion. Prune away the noise, don’t amplify it.

False drama— Backdrops that suggest first hand knowledge without real evidence.

Gotcha journalism— Structuring a non-debatable view beforehand as the main storyline.

Gullibility—Promoting Photoshopped or staged pictures unchallenged.

Historical amnesia— Parroting popular fictions instead of solid research. For too many journalists today, history begins at dawn.

Junk science— Reporting scientific consensus is not bad science; it is no science.

Lack of focus— Reporting should not be an excuse to miss presenting issues clearly and accurately.

“Look! Squirrel!”— Real scandals get forgotten when overcome by shiny distractions.

Manufactured news— Non-events breathlessly fluffed into features.

Milestone reporting— Reporting events absent context as if themselves significant.

Misplaced judgment—Opinion held by journalists is not so special it should take the place of that of readers.

Misplaced tolerance— Journalists abdicate responsibility to label bad behavior for what it is. Mired in their own moral relativism, they seldom recognize abuse of individuals is always wrong.

Misrepresentation— Inaccurate and non-representative content covered because it exists.

Monday morning quarterbacking— Telling people what one should have said does not report what they said.

One-sided claims— Saying what one official says without evidence for context.

Outrageous Style— Emotional righteous indignation passed off as news.

Platitudes— Clichés sound good, but they are not principles, distilled from experience, tested over time, and projected into the future to test for plausibility. “Give peace a chance” is a platitude used to stop thinking, not a civil process to solve problems peaceably.

Pushing the narrative— Filtering what is reported to fit a preconceived notion.

Silence—Media seldom hold people accountable for what they previously said, or seldom cover why views have changed.

Mislabeling— The press regularly commits politics . . . which is okay, when readers and viewers understand it to be entertainment or opinion. The sin is suggesting it is news.

By Stephen Waters

Publisher of the Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel

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