A case study in the shoddy work of several journalism school graduates
Journalism school is a waste of money if it leaves its graduates without even basic skills on how to report on controversies.
One of the greatest professional achievements of mine is that I have never taken a college course on journalism. Most of what I learned came from writing for The College Fix, reading good writers and writing frequently.
Yesterday, The Fix published a story about a Virginia teacher who is under investigation after he made comments in class about the January 6 events in D.C. Ben Plummer said he was “there” according to the video reviewed by The Fix, but it’s not clear he participated in any violence at the U.S. Capitol.
MORE A student posted this video on Twitter, reportedly showing Prince William County Schools teacher Benjamin Plummer telling students he “was there” at the US Capitol riot, defending rioters and more.@fox5dc #stayahead pic.twitter.com/HejNwqbt9T
— Tisha Lewis FOX 5 DC (@TishaLewis) January 22, 2021
Most of the news coverage failed to include a copy of the actual video that a student recorded during social media. The video sparked the investigation — but most readers were unable to listen or watch the video themselves to listen to Plummer’s tone and hear his actual words.
The journalism school graduates writing the stories did not help their readers understand what happened, because they failed to take 30 to 60 minutes to try to find the video in question.
At a minimum the reporters could have explained how they tried to obtain the footage — a school district refusing to provide video that is being used in an investigation is also a great story.
Matt Barakat writes for the Associated Press and studied journalism at the University of Maryland according to his LinkedIn page. But he evidently did not think his readers needed to hear the actual video themselves in the article he published.
Daniel Berti studied journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University, according to his LinkedIn page. He also failed to include a link to the video in question or at least explain how he attempted to find a copy of it in his article for the Prince William Times. Berti often covers local politics for the paper — but yet frequently fails to provide links to resolutions under consideration by various government bodies. I know he can hyperlink because he does occasionally reference laws or reports in his articles.
A middle school teacher is on leave after a video surfaced of him telling his students during class about his experience at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
He told students that Trump supporters at the Capitol were "incredibly peaceful" and were "not there to damage or hurt things" https://t.co/i5Z6ZTxKTV
— Daniel Berti (@DanielBerti12) January 19, 2021
He did tweet a link to the video from his personal Twitter account, though the original poster appears to have deleted the tweet.
Tisha Lewis, a reporter for Fox 5, studied journalism at Virginia Tech, according to her LinkedIn page. She reported on the Twitter video but did not include it in her video report nor the article published under her name. She tweeted the video three days later on her own Twitter account (above).
If these reporters did not learn how to source their claims in journalism school, what did they learn?
As a mentor to student journalists, I often advise against going to journalism school for a graduate degree. Someone can learn more by writing stories frequently and diving into different topics than they can sitting in a classroom.
Julio Rosas, a reporter for Townhall, told The Fix that he carved out his niche by providing on-the-ground footage from riots across the country. He never finished college — and he has done more to help people see what is going on so they can make their own judgments.
Journalism school can have value — but only if it teaches basic skills.
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