Context and perspective--they are the operative words for first rate journalism. Sadly, they are lacking all too often in the output of much of today's mainstream news organizations, especially in the electronic media.
Instead, there is a tendency to pile onto a journalistic bandwagon and in true herd fashion dwell exclusively and ad infinitum on the most sensational aspect of the latest major controversy, even if that aspect is far from the last word.
In many respects, this behavior is a product of the 24 hour, seven days a week cable news cycle that imposes an unrelenting demand to keep the audience engaged.
Dissenting views, screw ups, uncertainty of conclusions, and other story lines with sensationalist overtones are repeated to exhaustion. Rarely is there any attempt to put them in context because that would entail complexity. For an internet-oriented audience with an attention span of a millisecond, complexity is a turnoff, or so the thinking goes.
Hence, the faulty startup of President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act is trumpeted incessantly with little if any mention of the substantial successes the law has generated.
Denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is precipitating a significant global warming threat is often presented at face value. No attempt is made at the time to put the denial in perspective by explaining why it should, and does, remain on the fringe.
Journalists need to address the complexities of controversy so as to provide the full picture, even at the risk of losing some impatient customers craving simplistic answers.
For those in the media tempted too package their presentation primarily to stir people's emotions in order to build a following, a professional reminder is in order.
The public deserves better from the Fourth Estate than titillation over information, especially with the elemental challenge of climate change at hand.
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