It is not always common practice to analyze only a few chapters out of a book. Usually if you are going to draw an understanding from a piece of literature, you would go through the reading in its entirety. This is especially the case in books that are meant to encompass an entire subject. Fortunately for us, the way Blur has been organized allows readers to grasp a full understanding of each piece of journalism in the media age individually, and put them together along the way like a jigsaw puzzle. To see the purpose of the reading, it is important to take a look at the two men who wrote the book. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, the co-authors of Blur, are two well-respected men in the journalism community.
Kovach grew up in Tennessee in the 1940’s. Upon graduation of high school, Kovach joined the Navy for four years, until realizing that his true passion was journalism. In his career, he worked for papers such as the Johnson City Press Chronicle (Tenn.), the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and most notably The New York Times, where over the course of 18 years he climbed the ranks to hold such positions as deputy chief editor and Washington Bureau chief. He also worked at Harvard University, where in 1997, he and 24 other journalists met to form the Committee of Concerned Journalists (CCJ).
One of the other journalists on that committee was Tom Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel also has made a nice career in journalism for himself. After growing up in California, he attended the Columbia School of Journalism, and went on to write for The Peninsula Times Review (Palo Alto, CA), The Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek Magazine. The same year the CCJ was formed he also founded the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which originally worked with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and later affiliated with the Pew Research Group.
The CCJ was formed because of their concern for the future of the profession of journalism. The 24 members were trying to comprehend how to deal with the expansion of media in the ever-changing field that they worked in. Kovach and Rosenstiel then traveled the country, asking journalists everywhere, “What’s the purpose of journalism?” From their personal knowledge of the field and drawing on the massive response of other journalists, the two men then took this question and turned it into three books over the course of the next 13 years.
The first book they wrote, entitled Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media, focused on the how media was changing the means of which people needed to report, especially after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and their second book, the critically acclaimed The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect focused more on an explanation of what journalism is itself. Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload is the most current, and is a combination of their first two books, showing us what modern day journalism has become in the rapidly growing media age that is upon us, and how we should approach it.
The topics of the specific chapters from Blur this week, entitled “Completeness: What is Here and What Is Missing” and “Sources: Where Did This Come From?” are explained in their titles. In these chapters, Kovach and Rosenstiel walk us through why completeness and sources are important while talking about journalism in todays society, and also give helpful definitions and examples for specific terminology related to both of them. The information that Kovach and Rosenstiel give us is very clear-cut and well organized.
The chapter about completeness begins with the story of John Crewdson’s reporting on airline medical safety features, a real world example that shows how a story with complete thoughts could prove to be more persuasive. The authors then walk us through completeness more thoroughly, speaking on the five W’s, H, and the Q of a story, and also look at the use of facts and how to determine their birthplace, their importance, and their reliability.
The following chapter on sources also starts in a similar fashion, considering the reporting done on Steve Jobs while he faced health problems near the end of his life. The chapter continues with an analysis of different kinds of sourcing, as well as the factors that need to be taken into account when trying to analyze the validity of these sources.
Both chapters of the book were divided up in a way that created a fluid understanding of the concepts that were being considered. The relatable real life examples presented at the beginning of each of the chapters were useful tools in showing the reader the importance of the two ideas, and the extended examples within each subsection of the chapters also helped provide a clearer border between concepts.
Kovach and Rosenstiel truly believe in the ideas of completeness and sources when speaking on the topic of journalism. They present that to the reader with their careful craftsmanship of Blur, and it would be hard arguing against their importance with the experience that the authors share in the field. Overall, it is clear to see that the two have written this book in order to spread their wealth of knowledge in journalism, and hopefully create a smooth transition into the rapidly changing media society we live in today.