Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Worst in Cincinnati Journalism for 2018

In non-election years, local journalists don't always get the attention they desire.  In today's media atmosphere of gaining readers/viewers at any cost, the desire turns into a need and brings out the worst in journalists.  This year there have been many examples of bad journalism in the Cincinnati area.  Here's my list of the worst:

Jason Williams of the Enquirer - Many years ago CityBeat gave me a special mention in their annual "Best of" awards: The best Anti-Peter Bronson Blog.  I can state without question that Jason Williams is no Peter Bronson, no matter how hard Williams tries to be.  The reason why is that for all of his negative hits against his political foes, Peter Bronson remained a gentleman about it. Bronson didn't make it personal.  The Enquirer's Jason Williams makes it personal.  He takes pot shots at people and is a prick about it.  He indirectly singles people out and attacks them, not for their political stances, but for their personal ones.  Williams doesn't like OTR and the Streetcar.  I don't know if it is because he is against urbanism or can't take criticism from the people who don't agree with the lifestyle he lives.  He keeps that lifestyle mostly hidden.  He's a suburbanite, but tries to deflect what comes across as a dislike of cities.  He is most likely a moderate Republican of some stripe.  He viciously attacks progressives and has a disdain for their politics that usually only comes from the most vile far right wing conservatives.  He steers clear from criticising most Republicans and moderates like John Cranley.  He'll rip on the low hanging fruit, like Trump, when he's committing the worst sin of a columnist: attempting to appear balanced.  Williams opinions are not balanced and he will never be a good columnist until he admits that.  He won't be close to Peter Bronson, who never denied being a very conservative Republican.  A good columnist has to commit to something and Williams has only committed to being mean and embracing the anti-city characters lurking about.

"Self Proclaimed" - Many journalists were guilty of laziness or bias this year when they referred to five Cincinnati members of council as the "gang of five," but those who claimed the term was "self proclaimed" were inaccurate, and committed an act of bad journalism. While not the only journalist to do so, Jennifer Baker, of FOX19 and carried by the Enquirer, doubled down on the term even after it was pointed out to her, by me, that use of "self proclaimed" was not accurate. For those wondering how this is inaccurate, I ask where the public proclamation is of the five members making claim of this term.  A couple of joke texts is not the group proclaiming anything.  The term was adopted by Republican lawyer who filed a politically motivated lawsuit against the city and the five council members. Running with the Republican a taking point makes for bad journalism. Even the grossly biased, but within his lane as a columnist, Jason Williams used the term "gang of five" with the quotation marks included.

WLWT's Twitter Account - Local news has a simple goal: report LOCAL news.  WLWT's twitter account dumps in tons of crap that is not local.  Crime stories have been the most relevant examples that have been Tweeted by the station with no indication in the Tweet that the story's byline is no where near Cincinnati or even the wider region.  Stories that take place in any of the three states that make up the Tri-State area I think are semi-reasonable to report for a Cincinnati media outlet, but local crime in Florida or New York or Alabama are not local stories and have no place being reported WITHOUT reference in the headline of the location.  That's the problem.  The Tweets I am talking about are really just the headlines from online articles that hit the WLWT website and then are pushed to Twitter.  If the Local outlet wants to gain followers, find, but they have journalistic responsibility to accurately convey information.  Assuming people read the article is not being responsible, and creates misinformed readers.  Far too many people think crime is rampant when they see these types of stories on their local news social media pages.  Responsible journalists look to inform the public with fact, not to provide sensational stories that gain clicks, but misinform people on their communities.  WLWT is not alone in doing this, but I've seen far more from them than other outlets.

I don't expect any of those mentioned above to change in 2019, but I can hope others won't follow their example.  For all of terrible journalism we get exposed to, local journalism has the most responsibility to be accurate.  They touch stories of people and organizations and governments that we see and are affected by every time we walk out our front doors.  We are suffering through the creeping destruction of journalism at the hands of a combination of commercial and political interests.  Every step the consumer can take to push those interests back is the only remedy, so make sure others call out bad journalism when they see it.

1 comment:

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