The Death of Lois Lane

Hard core.

That’s the only way to describe my decade as a traditional journalist. A profession that has been thrown under the bus by my blogging colleagues. Traditional journalism doesn’t get it. They are a dying breed.

Here lies Birdie. Who tragically ran into our door tonight

When I tackled a story I only had one thing in mind- to bring the people the information they needed. I was a very old school journalist and prided myself on sharing unbiased and up to the minute news on wherever I was sent that day.

Fires. Crimes. City Council meetings. Red Carpet galas. Accidents. Weather trouble. Celebrity court hearings. Deaths.

My job was always clear. My objective very straight forward. Get to a scene, collect as much information as possible, share said information with the public.

My politics never came into play. My feelings and emotions buried. I was a journalist. I was a professional. I was there for you, the listener, the viewer.

I was very good at what I did. My investigative work had cities spending millions and landed some nice hardware on my desk. But it’s not about me. This is just to lay the background on why I struggle with the current state of journalism and the impact of new media. And struggle I do.

Make no mistake, I’m leading the charge to incorporate social media into traditional journalism. I’ve spoken on the topic at universities, conferences, and in various podcasts, twitter debates, etc.

Citizen journalists and traditional journalists are not the same. You can combine the two, but in the process you kill traditional journalism.

You can’t be a reporter and share your feelings on a subject matter. This is no-no #1 in Journalism 101 and destroys your credibility. If you open your mouth, you are henceforth a columnist, pundit, and/or blogger.

The end. Period.

This does not mean you can’t break news, investigate, or report. But it does mean you will always be taken with a grain of salt, and you are NOT ever to be considered a journalist. At least not in the traditional sense.

I am no longer a traditional journalist. I gave that up the minute I opened my mouth. I am now a blogger. A pundit. A columnist.

What traditional journalists can do is use these social media tools in their reporting. Use Facebook to promote a story. Use twitter to promote a story, use your online presence in a blog or site fashion to report .. use them as TOOLS, not as bully pulpits. That is the role of reporter. That is the role of journalist.

But I fear the abuse of these social media tools have left us with few, if not zero, real journalists. Everyone is now a social media hybrid citizen journalist. A term I loathe. I prefer to call you MOS… that’s Man on the Street.

You are all witnesses, pundits, columnists, opinion makers. You can blog all day long with facts and opinion and  speculation and use all the tools and really make a difference…but that doesn’t make you a journalist.

And I fear there are none left. No one can seem to keep their mouth shut. No one can seem to ignore the siren song of tweeting how they felt about reporting that story, or blogging the ‘behind the scenes’ of their interviews in a note over on Facebook.

When I began blogging I gave up my title as journalist. It’s as simple as that. Why? Because I respect journalism. I respect what real reporters do. I respect the profession and I certainly know what it is to be a professional journalist.

I tell this to journalism students now and they look at me stunned. How can they possibly live in a world of Facebook and Twitter and blogs where their mother’s are giving status updates on their personal lives?

It’s simple…they can’t. Traditional journalist may be an impossible feat and title for anyone entering the field. I’m not sure any real reporters make their way out of this muck that is social media. You can use the social media tools all you want, but the minute you show your human side you are pounced on for being anything other than a straight news gal.

Maybe journalists were always the ideal, but never really existed. Maybe we all strived to be straight forward and unbiased and worked our tails off to make sure we got you the news and you got it opinion free. I know I did. And I also know I firmly renounce that title now that I’ve opened up my life to the world. What bothers me is other’s haven’t. They continue to label themselves journalists without really having the back ground or education or even experience. While I laude the power of the average person and their blog, and it’s power to enact change… I cringe at what it’s done to those who have worked their entire lives to bring you the news.

Maybe this is my romanticized version of news. Maybe it’s my plea to find the light inside the darkness of so much noise and information and my hope that the cream rises to the top. But more and more I’m finding it’s not the cream, it’s the crazy, loud, brash, and obnoxious. Social media has pitted the serious journalist against the shock jock, and America loves a good train wreck.

So instead of the economy we get Jersey Shore and instead of showing all the hard working people busting their butts to free an Iranian woman from being stoned, we get the Tea Party rhetoric that feminists aren’t doing a thing to help. The noise is beating out the truth. Fiction and lies are louder than those toiling behind the scenes, with no time to defend themselves because they are actually working to make change happen.

And normally it would be the part of the journalist to find these stories, to call them out, to present the information to the public. But they are too caught up playing catch up to notice.

Maybe I’m just lamenting the passing of time. Maybe this is my ‘get off my traditional journalist lawn’ post. Or maybe I just refused to see what was always there.

Lois Lane is dead.

Or was she every really a traditional journalist? After all she was fucking Superman.


  1. My dad was a life long newspaperman. I work for a magazine. I am very fond of traditional media and I couldn’t agree with the definitions here more.

    I heart this post with a thousand burning suns.
    .-= Loralee´s last blog ..What A Week =-.

  2. CO-SIGNED! CO-SIGNED! CO-SIGNED!I love my bloggy friends, but they get very annoyed when I say, “If you’re posting anon, have no sources and MAKE STUFF UP, you are not a “journalist.”


  3. My husband wants me to point out he thinks I lost my journalist cred when I called Shaq ‘sweetheart’ during an NBA championship parade … he might be right

  4. The tragedy is in those unwilling to see that time is not immobile. Things change, people changes, mores change. I want to believe in the nobility of a profession and the character of individuals, but as our access to people’s indiscretions, private thoughts and more grow, it is increasingly difficult to have impartiality.

    I do love passion for truth. And, in turn, I adore you.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Tell Me Again… =-.

  5. Francine hardaway says:

    Do you listen to the podcast called Rebooting the News (Dave Winer and Jay Rosen)? That’s what convinced me I will never be a journalist. But there’s a place for better pundits and bloggers as well. They can say things journalists can’t, which can be good.

    Or bad

  6. Had anyone said this, I would have been fighting mad. I would have assumed that they were being dismissive of bloggers and blogging. But I see what you’re saying, and I grudgingly admit that you’re right.
    .-= Amy Phillips´s last blog ..I Get Around =-.

  7. Not if Shaq actually WAS a sweetheart.

    This is an excellent, excellent post, she said with complete objectivity.
    .-= Belinda´s last blog ..The Vegetarian Myth =-.

  8. As a journalism student in the 1970’s (immediately post-Watergate), I also worshipped at the shrine of objectivity. But I wonder – was the practice we think of as “traditional” journalism something that even existed outside of the US? And even then, wasn’t it a 20th century construct? When I first started visiting the UK a couple of decades ago, I was shocked at how little objectivity there was in news reporting over there. People bought newspapers that reinforced whatever political views they already had.

    I blame Rupert Murdoch more than blogs and new media for the death of objectivity in American news reporting. I also blame the end of the Fairness Doctrine and consolidation of media (both of which can probably be traced back to Murdoch, too).

    We now have 300 million voices… and very little knowledge. We’ve lost a lot.
    .-= Donna´s last blog ..What the World Needs Now is Love =-.

  9. Perhaps I’m wrong, but sometimes I wonder if the whole notion of the “objective journalist” is a mid-20th century invention. From what I understand of the media in the initial Hearst era, in the 19th century, and way back to the 18th century when Jefferson and Adams were battling for the presidency, objectivity was not always the most important part of journalism historically. Then again, Edward R. Murrow had to come from somewhere, I guess. How does “objective journalism” fit into the history of journalism?
    .-= John E. Bredehoft´s last blog ..And the advertisers are more reviled than the politicians who hire them =-.

  10. Objective journalism was all I was ever taught and all I ever practiced. The concept was holy and entirely pushed as the ‘only’ way – I never knew it to be taught otherwise. Historically I’d have to do some research but its the only way I was ever taught.

  11. Francine I have not listened yet… apparently I should!

  12. I know for a fact that I’m a blogger. I know that I can’t be quiet enough to be a real journalist but now it seems like a lot of “real” journalists are starting to become me but with tv shows. We have to find a way to separate me from whats supposed to be real journalism.
    .-= T1theinfamous´s last blog ..Just killing time here =-.

  13. Most people have no idea how hard traditional journalists fight to be objective. They toss off “liberal media” like they know something. I remember when someone at the newspaper took comped tickets for a sporting event he wasn’t covering (he was an editor) and there was yelling and crying and shouting because everyone thought his punishment wasn’t severe enough. Most people thought he should be fired on the spot. People took that ethics shit seriously. I know I did. I would refuse coffee and water. I just didn’t want to be seen as someone who could be bought for any price.
    .-= Suebob´s last blog ..Animals Dont Have Feelings =-.


    The thing about Rebooting the News is that it’s a technologist and a journalism professor talking about these very issues: what’s journalism in this day and age. Was objectivity (different from ethics, SueBob) ever real? Or desirable? Or just traditional? And what do we do with some of the most extreme and virulent bloggers and commenters?

  15. Hi. I’m Jay Rosen of Rebooting the News. Francine is right; we do talk about these issues:

    Here’s something I wrote on the theme developed in this post. As you will see, I disagree with much of what Queen of Spain has concluded…


  16. Glad you stopped by Jay. A place for objective journalism may very well be dead in this day and age, but to claim it never existed is … harsh. I can see where we need to move forward in order to survive, the hybrid I mentioned, however there was a time where objective journalism worked. If it was ‘pure’ and objective … always has been up for debate, but the goal was always there in the mind of the traditional journalist – at least it was supposed to be. With that goal blown to bits by new media … how we move forward is an entirely different blog post.

  17. I tried to be both ethical AND objective, Francine. I was exceedingly pleased either everyone on all sides of an issue or no one accused me of bias.
    .-= Suebob´s last blog ..Animals Dont Have Feelings =-.

  18. Even though I am a blogger, I don’t consider myself a writer or a journalist at all. I never have. I already have a full-time career where I was taught to shut up and not talk around journalists/media etc.

    It seems like social media has changed print media in an odd way. I find that many of the newpapers, etc. are writing for sensationalism or almost tabloid like writing these days, which is sad. I’m sorry but really do we care about these celebrity divorces and multiple trips to drug rehabs? I don’t. I miss great articles, and I find them few and far in between all the paparazzi-driven type articles.

    If there is quality print writing out there, please lead me toward that way. I think I’m losing brain cells daily.
    .-= Julie {Angry Julie Monday}´s last blog ..10-10-10 =-.

  19. I just read Jay Rosen’s piece, and I think that I understand where he’s coming from. Even when Erin tried to be as objective as possible, her very impression of objectivity is skewed – for example, by the fact that she is an American. Her objective view of something may differ wildly from the objective view of a man from Zimbabwe.

    But perhaps that gives us an idea of a sort of objectivity that can be achieved. If you accept the idea that there is such a thing as an American society – some set of beliefs that are commonly held by Rush Limbaugh, Ron Paul, Roseanne, and Ralph Nader (to name a few examples) – then perhaps some measure of objectivity can be achieved within that context. For example, perhaps those four would agree that “political campaigns are getting more expensive, and this is not good.” Or maybe they wouldn’t agree on that.

    Of course, this is all based on the premise that there is, as I said above, a single American society and set of beliefs. Does such a thing exist?
    .-= John E. Bredehoft´s last blog ..And the advertisers are more reviled than the politicians who hire them =-.

  20. Wonderful post.

    There are still some very capable newspeople around. However, the line between reporting and editorializing blurred long before everybody had a PC. The Vietnam War became sufficiently unpopular to unseat a President in large part because of the selectivity of what got reported, from the publication of the Pentagon Papers to photos of little girls fleeing mayhem. Fast forward to this week and we see the selection of this year’s Nobel Laureates with nearly every reporter properly introducing us to genius and creativity that most of us did not know existed. Where we seem to run astray is the inability or unwillingness to separate our ambivalence to seeing the people who keep us updated on our surroundings detatched from what they present to us. There are people who regard Fox as real news. It is my understanding that former VP Cheney required his advance men to have his hotel TV already playing that station whenever he entered his hotel room.

    One of the remaining bright spots seems to be the reporting of medicine and science news. My professional organization, The Endocrine Society, scans the major newspapers and physicians web sites each day, presenting a digest of the news to its members. I will read about three items a day from the original sources, nearly all presented with objectivity that would make any reporter of a generation ago proud.
    .-= furrydoc´s last blog ..Physician Posting Sites =-.

  21. After this I promise to shut up:-) I was, in another life, an English major, a student of language. During those studies, I learned that all beliefs are conditioned by language, and that if you write in one language, which has a vocabulary consisting of words to describe things you see around you, you have different perceptions than someone who writes in another language, which developed from seeing different things around her. This makes objectivity impossible. Also I practice Buddhism, which has taught me that I am the world I see, and that I get back what I give out. Objectivity does not play in Eastern philosophy, nor is it a virtue:-) It is misguided. But Erin, I love you, and I am sure you know.
    .-= francine hardaway´s last blog ..Governor Brewer and Arizona’s Future =-.

  22. So do we scrap teaching journalism students objectivity? Shouldn’t this remain a goal? ….

  23. “The noise is beating out the truth.” Too true, and too sad. Can we turn the tide?
    .-= Daisy´s last blog ..Apple Confit =-.

  24. I both agree and disagree with you. I think there is a way to inject a sense of mission into one’s reporting that is not personally motivated and that doesn’t damage credibility. For instance, in Chicago there is a publication that deals specifically with poverty, racial issues, homelessness, etc. They have a definite point of view and everyone knows it and still respects them for it, because their reporting methods and presentation are sound. They don’t just spout opinions. In fact, they don’t spout opinions at all, in a sense. They present their findings and the reader can come to his or her own conclusions. What’s wrong with this? Nothing.

    I also think that readers appreciate a fully transparent view of your search for the truth as a reporter. That’s what you’re really doing besides gathering facts and giving those facts to readers. If you are honest and say, you know, I believed X, but through researching this story, I have now come to see that it’s not that simple,” readers respect that. They respect it because they are in exactly the same shoes every time they read a story online or in the paper. They are reading it to either validate or change their opinion of something or just to learn something new. The reporter is thus no different than the reader. Now, people who have been on a beat for 10 years, they know more than the average reader. But even after 10 years, it’s possible to have your beliefs called into question, right? I’m not saying that a reporters personal opinions should be part of the story. They shouldn’t. But if it somehow becomes known in some other way what the reporter’s beliefs are, it shouldn’t damage their credibility as long as they are still being good reporters.

    Here’s something I wrote on the topic:

  25. Thought The1theinfamous’ comment was apt–some journalism is taking a turn into “bloggers with tv shows.”

    This NY Magazine article on MSNBC’s political realignment to counter FOX is interesting: It talks about CNN’s eroding dominance as a source of “objective” journalism as MSNBC and FOX swamp it from the left and right. In that respect, I think the article highlights what I take to be Erin’s discomfort with opinion overriding “objective,” 3-independent sources + the old Who-What-Why-Where-When reporting. If old-school shoe-leather reporting was never really “objective,” at least fact-checking and sourcing from human beings/primary sources (as opposed to links) served as a check on whatever opinion from the journalist might creep into the final story.

    Whereas blogosphere opining often favors meta-commentary. Fact-checking and primary sources/interviews with people can often fall by the wayside if it’s just an endless hall of mirrors of commentary.
    .-= Cynematic´s last blog ..Go Read It- The Young Guns Anti-Woman 9 =-.

  26. Did I say objectivity never existed? Hmmm. I thought I said: objectivity in journalism and newswriting is a form of persuasion, and, yes, that form existed. But today is may be less persuasive.

    I also said there is no such thing as pure or total objectivity but, jeez-a-roni, just about everyone in journalism says that. It’s hardly a controversial statement. In fact, it’s an absolutely conventional thought by now. Simple example…..

    “I’m a little concerned about this notion everybody wants us to be objective,” [Peter] Jennings said. Jennings said that everyone — even journalists — have points of view through which they filter their perception of the news. It could be race, sex or income. But, he said, reporters are ideally trained to be as objective as possible. “And when we don’t think we can be fully objective, to be fair.”

  27. Sigh. Claiming we all come to a story with our own ideas is fair, however, as I stated, the goal is objectivity. This is the standard I hold all professional journalist to and will continue to do so … but I think it’s a very easy out to claim ‘ah well, hell … with all this social media and considering we’re all biased to start… ‘ attitude we seem to inadvertently made it ‘ok’ to NOT be objective or at the very least strive for objectivity.

    and the second part of that Jennings quote really is the money shot, as it were –

    “…But, he said, reporters are ideally trained to be as objective as possible.”

    I feel like we’re giving students, reporters, etc. excuses to scrap objectivity.

  28. I am a former Editor-in-Chief of two newspapers (College and high School) and a former reporter for several online publications. Tried to go the traditional print route but couldn’t make enough money to survive.

    Anyhoo, I worked exceptionally hard to write pieces that were objective. I was always conscious of it. But for a long time I have wondered about objectivity especially in light of journalists who blog.

    It is sometimes hard to believe in objectivity when you know the politics of the writers
    .-= Jack´s last blog ..That Part of My Life is Over =-.

  29. Cynematic, you talk about MSNBC and FOX is if that is the only news there is out there. Yes, they both have a point of view and everyone knows it. The fact that they’re more popular than CNN is not a failure of journalism. It’s a demonstration of the reality that people like to know a news presenter’s point of view. Beyond that, a viewer can still make their own conclusions of watch both stations if they want to get a balance.

    Finally, cable “news” isn’t really news, as you rightly pointed out. Most of the time, they’re not doing any original reporting. No, that happens in newspapers which you probably know are under a great deal of duress for various reasons. So literally, the sheer volume of original reporting is less now than it used to be. So what fills the gaps? What you see on cable news and even your local newscast which is filled with thinly disguised commercials:
    .-= Anna Tarkov´s last blog ..Journalists should be ‘entrepreneurial’ – but don’t sell your souls =-.

  30. I like objectivity.

    In Australia, up until about a year ago, TV channel SBS was the last news report where a single person delivered cold, hard facts from around the world. Instead of standing knee-deep in flood waters wearing a clown suit and cracking bad jokes, the weather report featured the weather.

    I guess the ratings sucked. This year, they changed to a chatty, panel format where previously stern and straight-faced news readers attempted to make such banter as, “what a great little champion she is” and “how about that cricket score?!”


    I guess with the change in revenue from paper copies to advertising to corporate sponsors, something had to give.

    My definition of a respectable newspaper has changed from “one that is objective in its reporting” to “one that includes opinions from both sides instead of just one.”

    Newspapers like the UK Guardian and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald used to fit the first category. Now, if they don’t fit anymore, well, the Guardian is a little to the left and the SMH is a little to the right so I can stick one inside the other one to make a single, complete newspaper.

    Thank you for this post!

  31. What seems scary to me–not a journalist at all, just a blogger–is how this whole chatty attitude and covering of celebrity doings is dumbing down the population. It is as though, by the constant coverage of news, which is essentially unimportant in the greater scheme of things, the producers of such news want people to stop asking questions and stop wanting to know in depth about things that really matter.After all objective journalism (as objective as a living, breathing human being can make it) is only alive if there is someone who wants to read such reporting. And that is what is so scary, that less and less people want to read such reporting.

  32. I don’t know that the producers have any such diabolical plans. I think that the producers have much more short-term plans – namely, to get as many people to read/view their stuff as is humanly possible. And if they can get more readers by talking about Lindsay Lohan leaving a club than they can get by an objective analysis of the pros and cons of the Canadian health care system, they’re gonna go after Lindsay (in a fashion).
    .-= John E. Bredehoft´s last blog ..If open Facebook makes money- would closed Facebook make MORE money =-.

  33. Journalism never was objective, Queen. In fact, it was never supposed to be. Go back to our third Presidential election campaign, circa 1800. Read some of the stuff they said about each other:

    Given the intense rivalry and conflict involved, it is not surprising that the 1800 election reached a level of personal animosity seldom equaled in American politics. The Federalists attacked the fifty-seven-year-old Jefferson as a godless Jacobin who would unleash the forces of bloody terror upon the land. With Jefferson as President, so warned one newspaper, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” Others attacked Jefferson’s deist beliefs as the views of an infidel who “writes aghast the truths of God’s words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians.”

    The luckless Adams was ridiculed from two directions: by the Hamiltonians within his own party and by the Jeffersonian-Republicans from the outside. For example, a private letter in which Hamilton depicted Adams as having “great and intrinsic defects in his character” was obtained by Aaron Burr and leaked to the national press. It fueled the Republican attack on Adams as a hypocritical fool and tyrant. His opponents also spread the story that Adams had planned to create an American dynasty by the marriage of one of his sons to a daughter of King George III. According to this unsubstantiated story, only the intervention of George Washington, dressed in his Revolutionary military uniform, and the threat by Washington to use his sword against his former vice president had stopped Adams’s scheme….

    Makes the Tea Party gonzos sound like shopping news hacks, yes?
    .-= daleandersen´s last blog ..70-582 =-.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erin Kotecki Vest, Erin Kotecki Vest, Katie Harbath, Amy Bradley-Hole, Loralee and others. Loralee said: Love, LOVE this: RT @QueenofSpain: New Media, Traditional Journalism, and the Death of Lois Lane.. my rant […]

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