Skepticism

Another somewhat related virtue of reportorial conduct is skepticism, since it also requires reporters to be diligent as well as to inhabit a distant posture to the subjects of news stories. One LP radio reporter, whose main passion were long-term investigative radio features, not surprisingly emphasized “skepticism and inquiry” as principle journalistic virtues: “If something seems strange [the main issue is]: inquiring over and over again, including asking stupid questions, banal questions. ... don’t take it as given - ‘it’s just the way it is’ ... this is not an answer” (Interview, LP reporter, December 6, 2011). Another experienced LP reporter suggested that every journalist should stick the sentence “nothing is as it seems” to their mirror (Interview, LP reporter, March 23, 2012).

Contrariwise, reporters drew boundaries against journalists who exhibit a lack of skepticism and accept what sources “spoon feed” them. One young LCA reporter said: “I consider bad journalism that which accepts at face value all that is in front of it ... that which gives too much weight ... to the spin essentially” (Interview, LCA reporter, May 18, 2010). Skepticism pertains to substantive matters, but especially political actors. The flipside was that reporters may become overly suspicious, always assuming the worst. One spokesperson for a former New York Governor told me his “favorite conspiracy story,” which involved a situation where reporters felt led around the nose and assumed the Governor’s office was trying to conceal something. Instead, he told me, it was an instance of “pure incompetence” while acknowledging there were times when his office was in fact conspiring (Interview, NY spokesperson, February 28, 2011).

 
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