The Cost of Agenda-Driven Journalism

In the world of mass communications, there is a theory called Agenda-Setting Theory. It describes the ability of the mass media to set the tone and agenda of the day’s talking points. It’s fairly easy to understand, given that so many people are still connected to the news and what goes on in the world around them. The degree to which people are connected to the news and the media may vary, but it still holds true for the largest portion of society.

The Media, in many cases, seems to have interpreted this as meaning it is their job to set the agenda. The Rolling Stone (a music magazine) has (for reasons that escape me) dipped its toes into political culture time and again, only for it to reflect rather poorly on them. The University of Virginia gang rape story, horrific as it was, is now nothing more than an elaborate hoax in its best-case scenario.

The Post story doesn’t connect all the dots, but it’s not hard to do. Jackie has now given her friends two different names for the man she was with that night. Neither of them was in fact with her, ever dated her, or even knew her all that well. She appears to have invented a suitor, complete with fake text messages and a fake photo, which suggests a capacity for somewhat elaborate deception. Jackie, though, has not recanted her story. Her attorney would not answer questions for the Post‘s story on Wednesday and has told reporters to stop contacting Jackie.

That was written in Slate, of all places. Huffington Post, for that matter, is not buying this nonsense, either.

Rolling Stone acknowledged Friday that Erdely did not try contacting the alleged attackers for comment because of an agreement with Jackie, who had expressed fears of reprisal.

Such an agreement is unusual because journalists are expected to approach the other side for comment, especially when preparing to publish allegations as damaging as a horrific gang rape. Both Erdely and Rolling Stone deputy managing editor Sean Woods, who edited the UVA story, had suggested in interviews before Friday that Erdely had actually tried, but failed, to reach the alleged perpetrators.

This is what’s wrong with active agenda setting versus passive. When you go out of your way to make a story happen, and you ignore your duties as a journalist in the process, you end up with egg …read more    

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