Apparently there are four things wrong with we reporters, according to a blog posting from Google’s chief of research that was cited in the Mercury News:
REPORTERS AND PARROTS: As Google transformed itself during the past year into an online media behemoth, its chief of research began pondering a new topic of interest. “Reporters and Parrots: Can you tell the difference?” is the title of a blog entry on Peter Norvig’s personal blog, Norvig.com.
Norvig, who is co-author of a best-selling textbook on artificial intelligence, said he once aspired to be a reporter himself but has lately been “appalled” by the shoddiness of the craft.
He identifies four problems:
¹ Reporters don’t do their own research; they simply “parrot back” what is told to them.
² Reporters lie either to advance their own careers or to serve the interests of their corporate sponsors.
³ Reporters repeatedly show they are not capable of simple multiplication and division.
(4) Reporters are too easily manipulated by people who are wrong about an issue.
I feel I have to answer these comments as charges against myself.
The first point is true of many reporters today, and I have no problem with that charge. Many of us are too busy covering daily beats with constant deadlines that we have to meet. It means less enterprise and less digging. We should be doing the digging and doing our own research. It’s a fair charge.
The rest, though, is a different story.
The second point about lying? I know few reporters who lie, especially to help corporate sponsors. In fact, many of us despise when advertisers try to push themselves into the realm of reporting and the work we do in covering the news. Do some editors bend to the wishes of advertisers? Sure. But most of us reporters resist as much as we can.
Reporters also have more math skills than some want to give us credit for. There are many of us who say “there’s a reason I didn’t major in math,” but we can do simple math. All of us have had to cover budget issues at some point in our career. You cannot survive a budget year without knowing how to complete a simple percent change function. That requires subtraction and division.
And finally, many young reporters can be manipulated by sources, but we all have to learn to stand against that. And how are we being manipulated if we report a story properly? If the source states a fact to us — whether it’s right or wrong — and we lay out all sides of the issue in our article by talking to everyone, I think the truth will come to light. And we reporters many times don’t know who is right or wrong on an issue.