So, I now subscribe to the Houston Chronicle. All-digital edition – saving a few trees, but as I thought about it today, it was important to me that I do, and important I explain why.
First, I believe there is still a strong need for accountable, responsible, ethical journalism. People who break the news fast, but as importantly accurately – and can follow up and get in-depth where required. This doesn’t come without a cost, and if I value it, I should be able to put money into that. Note – this is different from expertise. I expect reporters to be competent, but I don’t expect them to be authoritative sources on their own.
By contrast, I also value the vast and rapid information network that I have in social media. This is good for alerts and fast dissemination of information – but that same speed means that, on occasion, an incorrect truth spreads like wildfire, and a later retraction doesn’t garner the same attention.
I see a need for both to exist – but while one is powered by the commons, the other requires focus, which means investment, and that won’t come through “everybody else’s” input.
Second, I realize bias and misconduct is ever present in journalism as in any other field. We can all cite examples – Rupert Murdoch and News of the World. Jayson Blair. I’m not naive enough to think that just because there is a code of ethics and accredited degrees in journalism, there won’t be this kind of conduct. However, I still believe that the vast majority of the profession are competent people with good intention and human flaws.
Please keep separate fact-based journalism from opinion-based commentary. I think commentary can play a role in deeper debates on issues, but is often overused – with great effect – to build ratings and rapport with viewers/readers.
Also, facts aren’t immune from bias. Recently, I saw five headlines reporting on the same facts of the same judicial outcome – and they were divided on whether this was guilt or exoneration.
In order to combat this, I – as a reader and intelligent human – am responsible for keeping up with various sources. Social media and traditional media. Multiple sources on the same story. No, I don’t do a good job of this every day – I’m as busy as the rest of us. But, I’m supporting my newspaper because I believe that variety and source is valuable.
Finally, my newspaper has one other quality that matters to me – it’s local. This is our paper. Stories can come in from international, national, state, or city sources, but the crew at the paper put together a set of stories that matters to me as a Houstonian. And they do it every. single. day. I’m not going to get that focus from some of the big media empires like Time, Newsweek, CNN, or Fox News. That comes from my local news folks.
So, there you have it. I’m a proud, environmentally friendly subscriber to the Houston Chronicle, and here’s my reasons.