About the Author
Looking at the Oconee County Observations website the author of the blog is Lee Becker. According to the Oconee County Observations website Lee Becker has his PH.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Mass Communication, his M.A from the University of Kentucky in Communications and his B.A. from the University of Kentucky in Journalism.
On the blog it states the following about Lee Becker in regards to some of this achievements and awards:
- The Association for Education in Journalism named [Lee Becker] the 2013 recipient of the Paul J. Deutschmann Excellence in Research Award at the association’s annual conference on Aug. 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
- [Lee Becker] was given the Doctor Honoris Causa by the Senate of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration on Dec. 4, 2012, in Bucharest, Romania. The Athens Banner-Herald wrote a story about the award.
Do I consider Lee Becker to be a professional journalist?
I do consider Becker to be a professional journalist because of three reasons:
- He has multiple degrees that are focused around journalism, media and communications.
- He shows accountability for his content he is publishing
- He shows dedication to interact with his community.
Within the article 7 Signs You May Be a Professional Blogger Ashley Robinson (2015) discusses 7 things that may make someone a professional blogger. Two of them stick out to me in this article:
- You may be a professional blogger if you spend as much time interacting with your community as you do writing content
- You may be a professional blogger if you hold yourself accountable.
Looking into the history of Becker’s posts he makes the comments of his audience public and he does occasionally comment on the posts of his audience. Becker also makes himself accountable for the content he is posting. On the blog Becker (2015) states: “ I strive to be accurate, fair and transparent. Comments are encouraged. I attempt to apply the standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency to them as well” (Becker, 2015). In my opinion these are two vital things that would make a blogger and journalist appear professional on media websites and blogs.
Oconee County Observations – Purpose and Bias
The purpose of the Oconee County Observations website is to inform others about the news and comments made in the developments of Oconee County Georgia (Becker, 2015). There may be a bias to this blog as Becker states the following to his audience, “I am a citizen of Oconee County. My experiences and aspirations for the county have influence on what I post here” (Becker, 2015). While the author does make a point to tell his audience that he strives to be accurate and transparent in his news and comments, since he is a citizen of Oconee County his information he is providing could be skewed. This could have an influence on what he is posting to his audience. What I do admire about the author however is that he cites his resources and spends the time to include links to his sources in his blog.
Does the Becker adhere to SPJ’s Code of Ethics?
As a journalist and blogger I do believe that Lee Becker adheres to the SPJ’s Code of Ethics. Becker takes the steps to verify information and tries to report information truthfully and accurately. The following codes I believe are evident within Becker’s blog:
- Seek Truth and Report It– Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- Be Accountable and Transparent—Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public. Journalists should explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
(Society of Professional Journalists improving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.)).
When viewing Becker’s blog Oconee County Observations I was impressed to find that Becker listed a link to his complete profile. When clicking on Becker’s complete profile I was able to follow a link to his webpage. When clicking on his webpage you are directed to the website Oconee County Observations II. On the webpage you are able to find source materials related to Becker’s blog Oconee County Observations. On the website Becker states the purpose of the page as the following: “This web site was created to provide materials referred to in the blog, Oconee County Observations. For more information, go to that blog” (Becker, L. (n.d.). I was impressed to find links to budget summaries, organizational charts, meeting minutes and email records. This in my opinion helps build the creditability of the journalist.
When viewing each of the blog posts I was impressed to find that Becker did not use a lot of anonymous quotes and he used the names of people making statements in his blog posts. He also provided links to videos in his blogs. An example of a video being posted would be in the blog titled A Small Truck Repair Facility is Coming to Oconee County Because of Caterpillar, Developer Told Planning Commission which was posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 (Becker, 2015). Within this blog Becker includes the video of the statement being made. This is a great example of a professional journalist providing evidence to make his blog more creditable.
If someone is reporting news should they be labeled as a “professional”?
In my own opinion it should not matter whether someone is labeled as a “professional” or not when reporting news. A person can be labeled as a “professional” and have multiple degrees but that does not make them an ethical journalist when reporting news. Everyone should be held to the same ethical standards regardless of their professional classification.
In this week’s reading resources there is one quote that sticks out to me as defining a good writer. In the article E.B. White on the Responsibility and Role of the Writer Popova (2012) states:
“A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. A writer has a duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they interpret life, they inform and shape life” (Popova, 2012).
As long as someone is being ethical with his or her work, they know how to write about issues from both sides and they provide their audience with source information and verification of their work this in my opinion makes a journalist.
In my opinion whether you are working for a media organization or you blog about something you are passionate about you should be required to take training in media and journalism. Blog websites should provide tutorials and trainings on how to be an ethical journalist.
Citizen Journalists and Bloggers
With the rise of the Internet and Technology being made available to more users more citizen journalists and bloggers are putting their name out there and publishing more articles for society to view. According to Barnes (2012) “Traditional journalism is the outside looking in. Citizen journalism is the inside looking out. In order to get the complete story, it helps to have both points of view” (Barnes, 2012). This is changing the way that we are able to view media and stories because it allows people to voice their opinions and change the way we receive knowledge and what we know in society outside of traditional journalism. It allows for the “voiceless” to get their opinions out there outside of the traditional news reporter.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are both advantages and disadvantages of citizen journalists and bloggers.
Some of the advantages of citizen journalism are that it allows for people to write about topics they are interested in, it allows for citizens to spread information while there are many newsroom layoffs, and it allows for citizens to feel part of their communities by participating in news they are interested in. It allows for the “voiceless” to offer an alternative perspective to online media. According to the article Using Citizens For Community Journalism D’herr and Paulussen (2013) state, “A steadily growing number of online media initiatives engage and reach local audiences. Online news media are not constrained by spatial limitations and the emergence of citizen journalism offers new opportunities to cover news on a town, neighborhood or even street level” (D’herr and Paulussen, 2013).
Some of the disadvantages of citizenship journalism is the news can be interest based, the author can be biased in their writing and the blog or news story they are writing about can be more about speaking their mind on a subject than maintaining neutrality. The facts and sources in a news story can be skewed and could contain inaccurate information.
According to the article Citizen journalism: How to encourage critical reading and viewing? Van Kooten Niekerk (2013) states,
“A huge constraint facing citizen journalism is that it is almost never neutral. People report only the items that are of interest to them. Hardly anyone posts news items because they can, but only because they feel they need to. This entails that citizen journalists are always deeply involved in the news they report – which puts pressure on its neutrality” (Van Kooten Niekerk, 2013).
In my opinion a non-professional can show good judgment and assemble information for balanced stories to build credibility for their stories. As a society we should be publishing tools and resources on ethical journalism on blog websites for people to use when they publishing their stories. I do believe however that whether a journalist is traditional or a non-professional there will never be 100% neutral and non-objective new stories. It is the responsibility of the consumer to check their sources and the credibility of a story.
According to Van Kooten Niekerk (2013):
“We ought not change citizen journalists, as they have everything on their mind except a neutral report of what’s going on. We ought to focus on changing the people on the receiving end to be critical about what they read and not to believe something simply by virtue of seeing it on their screen” (Van Kooten Niekerk, 2013).
Moving forward we should be focusing our attention on educating society in classrooms on the importance of media literacy and professional journalism. This may help with reducing the spread of false information online.
Barnes, C. (2012, September). Citizen Journalism vs. Traditional Journalism: A Case for Collaboration. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-2839151391/citizen-journalism-vs-traditional-journalism-a-case
Becker, L. (n.d.). About Me. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/
Becker, L. (n.d.). Oconee County Observations II. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from https://sites.google.com/site/lbbecker48/
Becker, L. (2015, May 20). A Small Truck Repair Facility Is Coming To Oconee County Because of Caterpillar, Developer Told Planning Commission. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/2015/05/a-small-truck-repair-facility-is-coming.html#more
Paulussen, S., & D’heer, E. (2013). USING CITIZENS FOR COMMUNITY JOURNALISM. Journalism Practice, 7(5), 588-603. doi:10.1080/17512786.2012.756667
Popova, M. (2012, April 17). E.B. White on the Responsibility and Role of the Writer. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/eb-white-on-the-responsibility-and-role-of-the-writer/256005/
Robison, A. (n.d.). 7 Signs You Might be a Professional Blogger. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from http://heartifb.com/2013/04/15/7-signs-might-be-professional-blogger/
Society of Professional Journalists improving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.spj.org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/ethicscode.asp
Van Kooten Niekerk, G. (2013). Citizen journalism: How to encourage critical reading and viewing? Media Development, 2013(1), 15-18. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from Communication and Mass Media Complete.