One of the most frustrating things in journalism these days (your GetReligionistas write about this all the time) is the blurring line between news and commentary.
It's not simply a matter of snarky material on Twitter by reporters about topics, institutions and people that they are also covering in hard-news stories. That's a problem, but not the biggest problem, from my point of view.
Meanwhile, I'll be honest. If I was a reporter right now, instead of a columnist and an opinion blogger, I do not know how I would handle Twitter.
No, I'm talking about the material that is actually being produced by newspapers, wire services and major news websites. Some use clear labels for "analysis" work and others do not. There are reporters who do straight news and also analysis and, at times, there are no graphics or labels to clearly tell you which is which and what is what.
Some standing online features with titles are news and some are not. There are "reported" blogs and blogs that are totally opinion. The logos often look the same to me. There are online-only features that look like news, but they are not, and people who only see certain newspapers in digital forms have no way to know which is which.
I don't think this digital swamp will be cleared up anytime soon. Still, I want to confess my frustration. This leads me to another example of a related trend, the writing style that your GetReligionistas call "omniscient anonymous voice." Here is how I described this journalistic trend in an earlier post:
Normally, hard-news journalism is written in third-person voice in past tense, with a heavy emphasis on the use of clear attributions for quoted materials, so that readers know who is speaking. That crucial "comma, space, said, space, name, period" formula is at the heart of traditional, American Model of the Press journalism.
The bottom line: It's a key element in retaining the trust of readers. Traditional journalists are, as a rule, going to tell the reader the sources for the information they are reading.
So what are we dealing with when journalists publish copy with paragraph after paragraph of material with little or no clear attribution? You know that this material has sources; but you also know these sources, for some reason, are not being cited. What does this look like?
Consider this recent story in The Washington Post.