Posts Tagged ‘associated press’

Stewart’s Journalism 101

Jon Stewart, who signs off tonight from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, influenced the modern media culture of America. (Photo: Martin Crook/Comedy Central)

Jon Stewart, who signs off tonight from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, influenced the modern media culture of America, and had lessons for those in the media industry. (Photo: Martin Crook/Comedy Central)

He sat at that desk, and told us of what happened in the world that day. Not only did he make us laugh, but for some of the population, he informed.

When 11:30 Eastern time struck, as most people turned off or switched to Letterman, Kimmel or Fallon, he had done more than just talk about the news of the day. He influenced and engaged with the modern political and media culture of the United States, and left an important lesson for those who cover the news.

He is Jon Stewart, and tonight he will sit at that desk at The Daily Show for the last time after 16 years. Since taking over from Craig Kilborn in 1999, Stewart added his own personal spin on the program, that as the digital and social media age evolved, took off, influencing 21st century journalism, and also showing where it can improve.

Data from the Pew Research Center showed that 12 percent of Americans got their news from The Daily Show, similar to that of USA Today and The Huffington Post. Many of them were young people. Yet, in a 2010 study from Pew, 10 percent of Americans turned to the Daily Show for headlines, compared to 24 percent for views and 43 percent for entertainment.

But what Stewart was able to do was more than entertainment – he was able to shape journalism and educate about its future, as the 24 hour news cycle evolved and adapted from cable news, to the web and social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. If the media was evolving, Jon Stewart would evolve with it.

The debate that Stewart contributed to focused on the standards to which reporting is conducted. As Thomas Kent, the standards editor at the Associated Press noted in an op-ed for The New York Times, that left many with questions.

“Mainstream American journalists have long valued keeping their own opinions out of their reporting, following the facts and letting them speak for themselves. Balance is valued, as is nuance,” Kent wrote. “But critics have called this school of impartial reporting outmoded. They believe journalists should declare their beliefs and then report the truth as they see it.”

Kent notes that while Stewart taught journalists how to appeal to new audiences, the principle of objectivity reigned.

“There is still enduring value to balanced, sober reporting of all sides of a story,” Kent said. “Mainstream journalism embraces a sense of professional humility; not everything has a simple, snappy answer. News commentary, especially acid commentary, is on the rise. It’s tough and straightforward and pulls important new audiences into public discussion. Jon Stewart was its master. But alongside commentary, citizens — and comedians — need the fundamentals: solid sources of fast, aggressive and balanced reporting.”

Jon Stewart allowed us to see ourselves as journalists in a different light, to remind us of what is important in journalism, and how to make subjects interesting to new audiences. The news cycle will continue to evolve as new technology develops, but the lesson that Stewart leaves is that people, especially young people, care about the news. They care about the truth. How it is delivered will change their engagement and attitude. As its said in the SPJ’s Ethics code, “seek truth and report it.”

While commentary aides discussion, reporting provides its roots, and only objective, impartial reporting can do that. Education is at the heart of all good journalism, and if Jon Stewart taught us anything, its that, and it is a principle we must abide by, not just for ourselves, but for our audience, no matter what platform we write or broadcast on.

We don’t enter this profession for the money. We enter this profession because we care about the people. We want to help them live better lives, and it all starts with education, something no one can place a price tag on.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger to Net Worked and SPJ’s community coordinator. He is also Co-Student Life editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Survivalist starts issuing his own press passes

Self-described survivalist James Wesley Rawles is certain that America’s comfortable, orderly, shrink-wrapped-for-our-protection existence borders on failure, and that we are one freedom-squelching disaster away from doom.

CFAPAlogoThat doom could arise from nature but more probably will result from governmental overreach, he says.

However, Rawles, who includes “former U.S. Army intelligence officer” on his resume, suggests perhaps the best defense against this overreach isn’t a gun or a bomb shelter, but a press pass.

And Rawles is happy to issue them himself — to everyone. Free.

To do this, he has launched the Constitution First Amendment Press Association, or CFAPA, a website advocating media freedom for anyone who wants it.

“I have a degree in journalism. Got it in 1984 from San Jose State University. At that time, our professors stressed that journalism was a profession,” Rawles said in a phone interview with Net Worked. “For many years, I took that at face value. But given the changing nature of technology, advances are putting the traditional tools of the press in the hands of citizens.”

Rawles spoke from his ranch somewhere inside the vast expanse he has designated the American Redoubt — the lightly populated, mostly mountainous region consisting of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the western portions of Oregon and Washington — the best place he says to hide from doom. His phone number instead has a California area code, but “that’s on purpose. I don’t want to wake up one morning and find hundreds of people camping on my property thinking that’s the safest place to be.”

Since 2005, Rawles has published SurvivalBlog, a portal he created to share survivalist tips and advice, and occasionally rail against law enforcement obstructing or harassing the media. SurvivalBlog claims more than 300,000 unique visits monthly.

“I’ve had my blog nearly 10 years now, and off and on I’ve mentioned numerous incidents and made comments that someone ought to issue press credentials to anyone who wants them” to prevent other incidents from occurring, he said. “Well, finally it reached the point where I said, ‘If I wait for someone else to do it, it’s never going to happen.’”

America’s first line of civil defense is access to information, Rawles believes, and the rise of citizen journalism has broadened the public’s awareness and appreciation for that defense.

He understands that press passes and media credentials guarantee limited special rights or privileges, depending on who issues them. Some governmental agencies also issue their own press credentials.

Rawles realizes he has competition. But he insists that his own blanket issuance of press credentials, coupled with his wide online audience, has more potential to “put the citizenry on equal footing with those traditionally recognized as professional journalists.”

Or so he hopes.

“Now, I recognize that even professional journalists have gotten themselves, arrested, detained, had their cameras blocked or taken away from them — yes, that does take place, but a lot less often than to the average citizen who just whips out his cell phone and starts filming an arrest,” Rawles said.

He believes the sight of several CFAPA press credentials at a news event may temper police behavior.

“I think that a lot of modern American law enforcement officers have developed a bit of an ego, maybe even a complex, where they like to be in control of a situation and have forgotten the fact that they’re public servants, and they try to lord over everyone,” Rawles said. “Here we are in the early days of the 21st century where we have police officers who need to be educated as to their responsibilities under the First Amendment to protect people’s right to record public events.”

Whether tossing around press credentials like confetti also mitigates arrogance is debatable, and Rawles’ approach may only fuel that debate. The CFAPA’s official stance, ironically, is to disavow responsibility for its own credentials so as to maintain a safe distance from anyone who misuses them — say, to gain free access to a concert or special event, or interfere with police doing their job.

James Wesley, Rawles

Rawles, from an undated promotional image

“That’s for my protection. I don’t want to be sued for libel or anything like that,” he said. “I do not have deep pockets; I’m not the (Associated Press).”

Rawles refuses to say how many credentials have been issued, citing privacy concerns, but claims the number is “in the hundreds.”

Another thing: Rawles insists the CFAPA keeps no records on who gets these credentials, the better to ensure the privacy of the press pass holders. And yet, if he hears of misuse, he will endeavor to have the credentials withdrawn.

Rawles does not explain how, without comprehensive distribution records, the association would go about doing that.

“I make it very clear that everyone who is credentialed by the organization is still an independent journalist and responsible for their own actions,” he said.

Printing out a set of plain, black-and-white CFAPA credentials at home is easy. Applicants first need only agree to a 20-point code of ethics, or “Constitutional Journalist’s Pledge,” and sign off on a list of usage restrictions that, among other things, prohibit pass holders to be under 18, to be “insane,” or to be “mentally incompetent,” though Rawles acknowledges he has no way to measure or guard against these things.

“I don’t think it’s realistic for me to say that I’m going to have everyone pass some examination or that I’m going to have them meet some peculiar standard for renewal of their press pass,” he said.

So, in the end, what good are press credentials that are easier to obtain than YouTube clips of Solange Knowles’ latest smackdown, yet may be only moderately more effective than not having them at all?

“This is more of a societal movement than it is a guild,” Rawles explained. “I don’t want to intrude upon the traditional press associations like the AP. … My intention is to set up something in parallel for the average man on the street, to afford them some of the same privileges that have been afforded in the past to credentialed reporters from the big organizations.”


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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