Watergate hero on what makes good journalism

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Earlier this week, Roy Greenslade at the Guardian summarized a talk given by Carl Bernstein to attendees of the Perugia Journalism Festival. From the perspective of better understanding the motivations of media in times of crisis, and the culture of misinformation that now dominates the information landscape – driven primarily by the web – Bernstein’s insights are powerful reinforcement for those who, like myself, believe that the traditional media is under enormous pressure from a variety of forces – both financial and sociological.

“(Bernstein) talked of consolidation by the conglomerates that ‘makes truth-seeking secondary to making huge profits’. And, given that making any profit all has become increasingly difficult, the task of carrying out good journalism is more difficult than ever before.

Good journalism, (Bernstein) explained, is “a simple matter but difficult to achieve”, namely “trying to obtain the best attainable version of the truth.” And the best way of doing that? “Being a good listener.” And? “Listening to source after source after source”. And? Knocking on doors and wearing out shoe leather.

Bernstein believes that the web is redefining “what is news” and “is taking us back towards what news ought to be.” He agreed that there was also “unchecked crap” in the blogosphere but, overall, his view of the possibilities of online journalism seemed very positive. He liked the “free-for-all, opinionated, noisy, different stuff” that is available on the web.”

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