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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Discourse on the journalist method

In an article for USA Today, Philip Meyer suggests journalists adopt a "scientific method" approach toward reporting rather than faux objectivity.

In Meyer's own words:
Scientific method is designed to let us ask questions of nature without being fooled by the answer. Its objectivity is in its method, not in giving equal weight to all of the possible answers as journalists are wont to do.

Two key aspects of scientific method that journalists need to adopt are transparency and replication. A scientist tells how he or she arrived at a conclusion in enough detail so that another investigator can follow the same trail, examine the same data and get the same answer.

Investigative journalism that relies on paper trails and documented interviews can do that. CBS did the right thing when it posted its documentary evidence on the Internet. That let users who had more technical knowledge spot the anachronism in the papers' typefaces. A sole reliance on anonymous sources no longer works, although those sources still can be useful if they point an investigator to information that can be documented.


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