Monday, July 23, 2007

Acknowledgement for a new integrity in journalism

Since Aphrodite Jones published her new book, Michael Jackson Conspiracy, I have noticed that many people in the media still have an unreasonable expectation that they enjoy a wide latitude when it comes to easily disseminating "inside information.” In a court of law, evidence that does not meet certain rules (or standards) does not get admitted during trial. Over the internet, I found a brief (and very general) explanation of evidence that cannot be admitted in court:

"The main reason why evidence is ruled inadmissible is because it falls into a category deemed so unreliable that a court should not consider it as part of a deciding a case --for example, hearsay evidence, or an expert's opinion that is not based on facts generally accepted in the field. Evidence will also be declared inadmissible if it suffers from some other defect--for example, as compared to its value, it will take too long to present or risks enflaming the jury, as might be the case with graphic pictures of a homicide victim. In addition, in criminal cases, evidence that is gathered using illegal methods is commonly ruled inadmissible."


Hearsay (the repeating of "rumors") and people's unqualified opinions (unless a person is an expert in an applicable field, a person’s opinions can be deemed to be just more “rumors”) seem to be what some media figures trade on when they discuss the Michael Jackson trial. “Inside information,” no matter how juicy and titillating and perhaps even scandalous, does not rise to the test of being "evidence" that can be admitted during trial. The kind of “inside information” that is based on rumor and innuendo can never be deemed to be reliable. Had any of this so-called titillating “inside information” ever been considered to be reliable, you had better believe that D.A. Sneddon would have moved to admit it in court. But there is a check on moving to admit unreliable evidence: competent defense counsel and a reasonable judge would follow the rules of criminal procedure, before admitting evidence.

When media figures act like any kind of evidence (regardless of the quality of evidence or in respect of any standards) can be admitted in court, what these media figures are confused about is that they think a court of law is the same as what has evolved to become the court of public opinion. There is a blurring that is taking place inside the media. Reporters, journalists, and commentators are collapsing a real court of law, where there are standards and procedures, with the court of public opinion, where, according to the pattern of the media's pack mentality which is documented in Michael Jackson Conspiracy, almost anything goes. On some televised court programs, I have noticed that some media figures will present almost any kind of “evidence” to the public, whereas if reporters and correspondents had to present the same “evidence” in an actual court, the media would be subject to rules and standards. Why have some in the media come to believe that they are bound by no rules or standards?

When the media spoon feeds the public "sound bites" based on substandard information, it becomes obvious that many in the media, and some correspondents in particular, are not following any rules or standards when it comes to what should be considered “facts” in their journalism. If a reporter’s career has taken her or him all the way to a major news outlet, then that reporter should have already learned this lesson. You could almost say that any media figures, who are still trading on gossipy “inside information,” are acting reckless and with wanton disregard for any rules or standards.

As Michael Jackson Conspiracy becomes widely read and discussed, more people are discovering for themselves the high standards in journalism, to which we must return. In response to commentary by Mark Fuhrman, someone posted the following message on one of Ms. Jones’s YouTube videos: “Since when is crime a matter of opinion? I thought it was a matter of laws.”



gilesmic said...

I think this is something really important that most people just don't understand. On TV, anyone can come on and say pretty much anything without any regard to the truth, without any requirement as to the veracity of the information being presented. I think people forget that television, magazines, etc. all exist to MAKE A PROFIT. They're top priority is not delivering the truth and facts, but delivering a story that is entertaining enough to get people to tune in and make them a profit. It's a business, not a public service.

In a courtroom though, the object is not to make a profit, but to find the truth. Therefore there are rules and procedures to facilitate the process of sifting out the truth from the rest. That is why not everything that gets on TV is not necessarily admissible in a courtroom.

brnthsdiscout said...

i'm just flabberghasted by the response to your our country, we have freedom of speech and liberty for all. i just can't believe all of this hate directed at michael jackson. but with so many personalities like nancy grace who were almost all former prosecutors, the bigger the lie the more people will believe it. and you're right, they kept feeding these lemons to the american public.

Classy said...

I followed this case from the UK, and the wider Jackson ordeal for the last 20 years. I must say that I'm very conscious of the Mockingbird style court of public opinion we have on both sides of the water. Over here, we've just had Ms Peaches Geldof making very suggestive innuendo about Jackson. No-one seems to care anymore that comments like this lead to more than lawful investigation - they lead to the public assassination of a person's character, morals, profession etc. I can't help thinking that these latest claims are VERY redolent of the Kill a Mockingbird storyline of the indictment of a black man due to the hearsay of a white woman. And of course the tabloids love it here: the Sun newspaper reported the story with all their characteristic emotive flatulence. I do hope that Mr Jackson spends some time in the next few years planning to defend himself publicly - I think he owes himself that at the very least. I suspect though that he will eventually be pushed to sue a few people for liable before then. Good luck to him - I think the world owes him a public apology.

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