Journalists must never betray their audience. This is a suggestion that every student of the journalism college can embrace. It is simple enough to read and understand. All students would agree it is important to stay loyal and truthful to the readers of their stories. Yet readership is lessening and the distrust of journalists is continuing to grow. In a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, 63 percent of Americans surveyed believe the news to be often inaccurate. This isn’t a conspiracy. Something is wrong with the journalists that drove away these readers. The general population doesn’t change their opinion on a whim and decide to stop trusting journalists. This distrust formed over time as journalists became lazy in their reporting and their writing.
S.I. Hayakawa wrote journalistic stories must contain reports that are verifiable, exclude inferences as much as possible, and eliminate judgment. Reports are anything factual and verifiable. They can be conducted by a research institute or an entry in the local phone book. Either way anyone can verify a report given the proper resources needed. Inferences are statements without verifiable information. Hayakawa defined it as a statement on the unknown by what is known. He explains how inferences are important in everyday life as it is a major part of the way society works. But there is no place for it in journalism. A sector of the work force in American that relies on providing the truth can not use a potentially true or potentially false statement that is not verifiable. Last he talks about judgment and how journalists reporting on the news can not allow their judgment to infiltrate the story because it clouds the truth and prevents the reader from formulation their own ideas. Instead of creating public thought and discussion, inferences and judgments shape their thoughts and discussions. By going against one of these rules, journalists betray their readers.
Hayakawa talked about how quick people are to accept information and “trust each other’s reports”. The general public likes to trust information given to them. Hayakawa wrote, “We ask directions of total strangers when we are traveling. We follow directions on road signs without being suspicious of the people who put the signs up.” He continues to list trusting books over automobiles, engineering, travel, and geography.
We trust this information because we believe it to be verifiable. All of this information can be verified and proved true or false. By either providing information that is inaccurate or by providing unverifiable inferences, journalists are betraying the readers and ultimately further distancing themselves from a public forum of discussion with their readers.
The most difficult task of these is eliminating inferences and judgments. Inferences and judgments plague everyday language and general discussion. They even plague parts of this paper because it is a casual, conversational analysis. But in journalistic reporting, inferences and judgments must be excluded in order to provide the reader with the truth.