Friday, March 24, 2017

When You Tell Just a Marginal Story

Back in the 1950s of West Germany.....a meeting was held, and a number of news reporters felt it was time to have some accountability....some mature behavior....and to note some ways and methods of conducting proper journalism.  So, the German Press Council came to exist.

The council had only two central functions.  One was to advise politicians on draft laws that might infringe or harm essence...try to talk the Bundestag out of doing something really stupid that would hurt the trade.  The second function was to offer advice to preserve the reputation of journalists in Germany.   Some of this was supposed to ensure that wild speculation, fake stories, or false accusations....did not become a standard of German journalism.

At some point twenty years later....a press 'code' came into existence.  This was supposed to strongly suggest to journalists where the 'line' would be drawn on telling stories.  People accused of crimes were to be treated as innocent folks, without much mention to their entire least until the court convicted them.  There were a list of things in this original code, which helped to mold German journalism into the trade that exists today.

Four years ago (2013)....the code was updated again....with some minor changes.

This week (Wed), the council came out again with another code change.

What they've suggested now is that an individual's ethnicity or religion should NOT be published “unless there is a justified public interest in doing so.”

In essence, you can write the following statement: "Muhammad A was arrested and charged for assault and rape over an incident that occurred at such-and-such pool complex in Mannheim."  Beyond can't say that Muhammad is from Tunisia, or a recent immigrant into Germany.

The possible story of: "Muhammad A was arrested and charged for terror planning acts, over an incident that occurred at such-and-such apartment in Mannheim." can be written, but you can't use the word jihad, or Islamic terror group in the article....otherwise, you'd break the code rule.

It's a humor-filled directive because the minute you say "Muhammad" or any of 10,000 names....the reader is immediately drawn to the fact that he's NOT a German.

What the council says is that the old method was setting up a curiosity with readers, thus getting them to go and do a search of social media or fake news sites....thus stirring up conspiracy thoughts or suggestions of migrant problems.

Course...the only way to really avoid any of to avoid using any part of the guy's name at all....just saying "Herr X was arrested for terror-act planning in Mannheim."  Who is Herr X?  You can only scan over that comment and grin because you don't know of any Germans who typically plan terror acts.

All of this involves some elitist thinking or intellectual thought process.

You might have some journalists who just avoid these stories or trying to explain them in a soften manner entirely.  Then six months into start having cops pass information privately to bloggers who write the entire article with all of the information, and thus attract more attention to their blog because you get all of what the newspapers or public-TV journalists used to hand out but avoid.  In some are creating a bigger problem because people trust the blogger now more....than the journalist.

It is a passionate stance that the press council is taking....trying to lessen negative feeling over migration and asylum seekers in Germany.  The fact that 90-to-95-percent of the crowd are not trouble-makers or problem-kids is not something that gets drilled into news stories everyday in Germany.  The fact that 99-percent of the new crowd made it through an entire day without any bad behavior, stupid terror planning, illicit drug sales, assaulting, or robbing anyone....isn't something that gets talked about.

I noticed this week that a blogger-type site in Sweden is keeping weekly notes and numbers on immigrant gang-rapes now.  The fact that the government doesn't keep such statistics (yeah, you can't collect such data in Sweden)....means that the reports that the bloggers are getting....comes direct from the cops to them.  In short summary.....the cops have given up on the system working and that the legal system will protect the public.  So, cops hand their weekly numbers and text over.  I would expect some government investigation to occur and they will attempt to point out the cops, with punishments to be dished out eventually.  The fact that the data makes the authorities look stupid....has yet to really dawn upon the political establishment.  You see the same trend developing in Germany....not so much over rape but just the landscape of any crime.

The value of a news organization goes to three central themes (at least in my mind).  You have to view what's going on within the landscape of readers or viewers.  Then you have to tell a fully accurate but short summary of what is factual, with details to suggest to the reader why it's important to know this.  Finally, there has to be some conclusion down the line where you wrap up this story and explain how things ended....factually.  If you can do these three things with any effort....then you are wasting the time of the viewer/reader.  They will skip you and go onto the next available source.  In recent years....bloggers gained something over news organizations, and you have to wonder where things changed.

As for the council guidance?  Most journalists will follow this because of peer pressure.  Their value to the public will eventually be questioned.  On down the line, journalists will condemn and blast the bloggers because their ethics aren't as pure as the journalists.  The public will laugh over the accusation and deem the journalists as having lost something in their trade.

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