V. Questionnaire answers
Mission and role
Participants were first asked, "What is your mission as a news provider?" and whether that mission has changed. The answers varied little, though some elaborated by describing issues pertaining to their media: 1
Next, participants were asked to choose from a series of possible descriptions of their roles, including these three:
- Web A: "I'm not a news provider any more ... my goal is to put interesting, engaging items in front of people and entice them to click. Many times, that means selecting the best stories out of the New York Times or starting a conversation about an important topic, but not always."
- Web B: passed
- Web C: "The challenge of all that speed continues to be accuracy. Too often when a story breaks there is more being chewed than bitten off. Making the Internet a more credible news source is one of [our site]'s goals."
- TV/Web A: "Our mission is to provide timely, relevant information to the communities we serve. While being on the web gives us a worldwide audience, our focus is on the 23-county TV viewing area. We have an advantage in covering local news, not state, national or international news."
- Newspaper/Web A: "My mission is to provide breaking news, analysis and commentary on business and financial topics."
- Newspaper A: "To inform, educate and entertain readers. Hasn't changed since I started in the business in 1969."
- Newspaper B: "Well, I confess I never refer to myself as a 'news provider.' It's not like I manufacture widgets. My job is to report the news and tell stories so that readers are informed about the world around them. Along the way, I try to entertain them, enlighten them and occasionally provoke them. In terms of my 'mission' as a journalist, that has not changed."
- TV A: "My mission is to provide the news of the day. That said, news of the day for me is not necessarily what most newsrooms do. News is what affects people, how they live, what they need to know to make better decisions about their life, their neighborhood and their community. It does not include racing after every breaking news story, i.e. car accidents, domestic disputes. It does include crime reporting but ONLY when it is outside the norm. My mission has not changed, but the business has."
- TV B: "My mission as a news reporter really has not changed for me since the day I started doing this for a living. I believe as a reporter I have an invisible contract with the viewers. It's a simple one: Find out what is newsworthy in the viewing area that they may not find out elsewhere and report it fairly, accurately and with passion and context."
Several participants, including two who are affiliated with newspapers, agreed that their news is a source of entertainment. "That's reality," said a media reporter for a Web site. 2 The Pew/CCJ study, however, found that 74 percent of news staffers think news organizations are moving too far into entertainment, 3 and a TV reporter interviewed for this project agreed:
- A filter to sort through a sea of information and give readers only the important things
- A conduit for people to decide for themselves what's important and what they want to know
- A source of entertainment
"The last thing we need to do is entertain. Viewers can get that elsewhere. I firmly believe the more we do the more we chase viewers away. Why would you watch a TV newscast for entertainment when you can watch some of those entertainment shows?" 4
Several participants used the "filter" and "conduit" descriptions to show how their roles are changing. An editor with a newspaper-affiliated Web site described her role as a filter but said, "The biggest change to that role in the past decade has been the rise of the Internet, which has dramatically increased the media's role of being a conduit for people to decide for themselves what's important and what they want to know." 5 An editor with a TV-affiliated Web site explained that he still acts as a filter, but his site may serve as a conduit: "For some main pages, news is filtered, but they have full wire feed and message boards that act as conduit." 6 The Internet gives news providers the ability to fill both roles. 7
A newspaper editor gave a defense of the "filter" role as a response to the proliferation of choices facing readers and viewers: "This is an important and expanding role. Why? Because with all the news outlets now available there is a lot of misinformation or confusing information out there. We can gather up the conflicting stuff and decipher it and say here is what you need to know, here's how to get through it all." 8
Not all newspaper editors have agreed with the "filter" role. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin said a printer was "one who prints, not one who edits, exercises judgment or agrees with each opinion in his pages." 9 Of course, many early American newspapers, including one run by one of Franklin's descendants, paid not the slightest attention to Franklin's advice and were instead devoted to partisanship. 10