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Friday, June 18, 2010

Journalists don't like public criticism

6/17, PBS: "Why do so many journalists find it so hard to handle public criticism? If you're an athlete, you're used to it. If you're an artist, critics will regularly take you down. If you are in government, the pundits and now the bloggers will show no mercy.

In all these cases, the seasoned professional learns to deal with it. But over and over today, we encounter the sorry spectacle of distinguished reporters losing it when their work is publicly attacked -- or columnists sneering at the feedback they get in poorly moderated web comments.

One passage in Hoyt's column jumped out at me as a fascinating window onto the psyche of the working journalist today:

'Times journalists have been astonishingly candid, even when facing painful questions any of us would want to duck. Of course, journalists don't relish being criticized in public any more than anyone else. A writer shaken by a conclusion I was reaching told me, if you say that,

  • I'll have to kill myself. I said, no, you won't.

Well, the writer said, I'll have to go in the hospital. I wrote what I intended, with no ill consequences for anyone's health.'

"If you say that, I'll have to kill myself"? Even in jest, the line suggests a thinness of skin entirely inappropriate to any public figure. "Journalists don't relish being criticized in public any more than anyone else," according to Hoyt. Yet the work of journalists so often involves criticizing others in public that it is something they must expect in return. Surely they, of all professionals, ought to be able to take what they readily dish out. ""...
  • from comments on above article
1. "Cynthia Spurling said:
It seems that news organizations are hiring more for the journalists point of view on the issues than being a good reporter. If you send them information, they ignore it as they have no time to research any issues just regurgitating what someone else says. Watergate took a great deal but more seem unwilling to look as dead to find ther real answers."
  • 2. " Stefan Stern said:
Journalists are much happier asking questions rather than answering them. We are not used to it. But the days of lofty superiority are over for us hacks. If we are going to dish out criticism we have to be able to take it."
  • 3. "Rosie said:
I think American journalists can't handle criticism is that this society puts them on a pedestal.
Shortly after I earned a bachelor's degree in journalism, I started hearing from non-Americans that "journalists" in the USA are "showered" with un- earned heroic status. The comments went like this:
  • "In my country a journalist is not a respected career," In my country
  • a journalist is the lowest of the low." You get my drift. So today,
journalists are finally being more scrutinized than in the past. And as a former newspaper reporter, I think that's a good thing. Why? They need to earn that layer of tough skin my professors told me about..."

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