What is old school journalism? Is it relevant in era of social media?

Friday June 14 2019

Odoobo C. Bichachi

Odoobo C. Bichachi  

By Odoobo C. Bichachi

Readers will always tell a good story when they see one. Yet while many readers and viewers are unable to tell in specific terms what was good about a particular story beyond the feeling that it was a good read, others can put a finger to what they consider a good or poor story.
Mr J. Makumbi is one of those readers that know what a good story is. He wrote to the Public Editor thus: “…I find the research shoddy and back story lacking in most stories…. Can we return to old school journalism instead of this new ‘twitter style nonsense’ where you are merely trying to attract the attention of people with low attention span using bait and switch techniques?”
He also shared a video of an undercover investigative story that aired on a foreign television station about disabled children being used by unscrupulous people as street beggars in exchange for accommodation and one meal a day. “Can [your platforms] do something better?” he asked.
What Mr Makumbi is taking about is what is generally referred to as investigative and/or ‘enterprise’ journalism. This type of journalism is indeed very much in line with what the NMG editorial policy prescribes, that: “Our news outlets must reflect a bias against routine assignments and political or charitable functions that are known to have little or no news value. The outlets will be dominated by evidence of enterprising news management.”
It is important for readers to appreciate what is meant by enterprise journalism or investigative journalism – at least in broad terms – so that when they “consume” one, they know why it is a great story. The other genre in this trilogy is day-two journalism.
So broadly, how can readers distinguish between the three?
Well, enterprise journalism is “…talking to sources, digging deep, getting to the heart of the matter, and creating stories that aren’t ‘all the same.’ Enterprise journalism works to understand and expose the context and factors that shape events, rather than reporting an event after it happens.” - (www.openschoolofjournalism.com).
Investigative journalism on the other hand is reporting that uncovers what is hidden from the public – corruption, crime, subterfuge, etc – and often starts with a tip or the question “why”. It takes time (weeks or months) and when completed yields evidence rich reporting.
As for day-two journalism, this is simply the reporting that goes beyond breaking the story to providing context, voice, and perspective. Day-two journalism can best be understood when juxtaposed with day-one journalism. In the latter, the story focuses mostly on the 4-Ws (what, where, who, when) while the former explores in-depth the other “W” (why) and “H” (how), explaining and tying related events together to create understanding.
As you will notice, the three types of journalism are not mutually exclusive, rather they will in many instances overlap. NMG platforms have routinely put out great enterprise, investigative and day-two stories that have shaped public debate and policy decisions.
In this era of fake news and “yellow” (tabloid) journalism, it is this type of reporting that sets apart media platforms and ultimately determines whether readers/viewers are well informed or are merely entertained! It comes at a big cost, though – in terms of money and skills – which is why to get more and sustain it, the public needs to vote with their pockets by buying the newspapers and consuming broadcast content.


Readers have their say
Thank you!
Dear Public Editor, I am a teacher at Lira Town College, Lira District. I am writing to thank you for the insightful articles that you write every Friday, in the Daily Monitor. You take time to explain issues in ways that enable us ordinary people to appreciate journalism and its role in our society. - Angoda Emmanuel, Lira.

Be more creative
“Our dear editors, I am sure you can be a little more creative and end this ‘Fare thee well’ thing in every headline for obituaries and death stories. Thank you.” -Henry Bongyereirwe, Facebook.
The headline, “Nsibambi: Academic icon, lion of language roars to land of no return,” in Daily Monitor of June 3 is likely not the creativity Henry is referring to because most people simply slip into death; they don’t go blazing, especially if they are 78 years old! Lesson? Always avoid superlatives and exaggerations in headlines.

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