You want facts with that?

I’ve been reading the rather excellent Flat Earth News by Nick Davies over the past week, It’s a fairly damning examination of the current state of journalism, a state where publications are under-staffed but push out more content than ever before. A state where commercial demands mean focusing on the most sensationalist stories or the cheapest to produce and a state where it’s fairly easily to manipulate the news agenda. A state where the need to be first overrides the need to be right.

Possibly most worrying of all are claims that facts and sources aren’t being checked and there is far too much reliance of the major news wires to provide the vast majority of content.

Fortunately, thanks to the advent of citizen journalism, it wont be long until we no longer need newspapers at all.

Or will we?

Apple has already been stung by inaccurate reporting when Engadget couldn’t wait to check the veracity of an email purporting that iPhone launch date was going to slip, knocking about $4 billion off Apple’s value.  This time a false report on CNN’s user generated news site, iReport, claimed that Steve Jobs had suffered from a heart attack, knocking $9 billion from the share price.

Understandably, there has been a fair bit of reaction around the blogosphere to this. One of the most interesting coming from Chris Brogan who points out that Citizen journalists aren’t evil and that everyone makes mistakes, including main stream journalists.

Which is fair enough, sort of, if you believe that everyone works with the purest of motives, which personally I don’t.  Setting my own cynicism aside though I can’t agree that just because one system isn’t perfect, we should accept the same foibles in another similar system.

Rather shouldn’t we be refuse to accept poor journalism, be it professional or amateur? If the third estate is to rise and take the place of the fourth then shouldn’t it be a better replacement, not a case of the same tat but different peddlers?

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