Jonathan Andrew Sheen (leviathan0999) wrote,
Jonathan Andrew Sheen

Reporters: This is how it's done.

When last I posted, I was blasting the press for its gross mishandling of recent stories about Emma Watson leaving Brown University.

Now, my adoration for Ms. Watson is both endless and a little bit creepy, but the point here is actually not Emma at all, but the shoddy work done by almost all journalists, everywhere, who simply slurped down, carelessly and imprecisely, a gossip piece in the New York Daily News which was itself a paragon of bad journalism -- anonymous sources, lack of fact-checking, and a canny arrangement of statements to imply something never actually reported, with a headline ending in a lawsuit-preventing question-mark.

So let's give a fine reward to the Associate Press, who actually did something that Journalists are allegedly supposed to do, but almost none actually do: They REPORTED.

Click here to read it where it lives, or see below.

'Potter' star Watson denies Brown bullying claims

(AP) – 1 day ago

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — Emma Watson, the British actress who plays Hermione Granger in the "Harry Potter" series, on Friday denied reports she was bullied out of Brown University — an assertion backed up by fellow students who said that, if anything, she was shielded from being singled out.

Watson said she is not sure what her plans are for the fall semester, the beginning of her third year. Like many of her "fellow Brown students," she wrote on her website, she is considering studying abroad.

"The reason I took a semester off from Brown had nothing to do with bullying," Watson wrote. "I have never been bullied in my life and certainly never at Brown."

Brown has not commented on media reports this month citing an anonymous Brown "insider" who claimed Watson was bullied out of school.

A New York Daily News article posted online April 21 claimed that when Watson responded correctly to questions in class, her classmates would shout, "Three points for Gryffindor!" — a reference to the "Harry Potter" films, in which students' dormitory houses are awarded points for questions they answer correctly. Watson's character lives in Gryffindor.

"This '10 points to Gryffindor' incident never even happened," wrote Watson, who has denied that rumor before. "Accusing Brown students of something as serious as bullying and this causing me to leave seems beyond unfair."

The rumor that a student had once exclaimed "10 points for Gryffindor" after Watson answered a question correctly became widespread on campus in spring 2010, the semester during which it was alleged to have happened, according to several current and recent Brown students interviewed by The Associated Press.

But, they said, it was viewed as part of Brown folklore, and students were, if anything, protective of Watson.

"We try to take care of our own at Brown, and I think we try to make sure she feels like anybody else," said Megan Estes, a third-year student who said she doesn't know Watson but worked on the production of a campus theater production in which the "Harry Potter" star acted.

Apart from the Gryffindor comment, there was little sense on campus that Brown students heckled or antagonized Watson, said Estes and other students.

In class, students were respectful of Watson, said Bianca Dahl, a visiting professor who teaches a course on global humanitarian aid that Watson attended briefly at the start of the spring 2010 semester.

"There was an awareness of her, but in a protective way," Dahl said. "I can't fathom that faculty or students would allow bullying to happen."

Some students went so far as to approach Dahl to caution her that the actress was taking the course after she made reference in lectures to the "Harry Potter" books and to a humanitarian fashion line created by U2 singer Bono, she said. Watson is involved with a similar fashion line.

Allison Zimmer, who graduated last year and was an editor on the Brown campus newspaper's weekly culture magazine during Watson's freshman year, said she often encountered Watson with friends at Brown's dining hall, its bookstore and other normal campus locations.

"At the beginning there was a little bit of an aura around her. People would say, 'Oh, I just had my first Emma Watson spotting.' But that faded after the first few weeks," Zimmer said. "It was almost uncool to mention it."

The newspaper consciously decided to cover Watson as a normal student and not to give her presence extra attention, Zimmer and other current and former editors at the newspaper said.

Watson's comments Friday come a week after Vanessa Davies, her spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that the actress would transfer to another university in the fall because she "has decided to pursue a different course which sadly Brown does not offer."

Still, it's "possible and likely she may return to Brown in her final year," Davies told the AP.

Davies did not identify the university to which Watson will be transferring, but said it was "affiliated to Brown." She did not elaborate on what that might mean.

Brown declined to comment on Watson's plans.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

(ATTN: AP: I will take down this post on your request, but please let it stand, it's an example of good journalism, and used here in that context, for educational reasons.)

Notice: AP's reporters -- I wish this piece were credited, it would be a pleasure to give credit where it's due -- Spoke to Brown University students, teachers, and staff. They quoted Ms. Watson, and they did due diligence fact-checking. They got quotes from her spokesperson, they looked up the source and origins of the rumors, which began early in Ms. Watson's freshman year and they note that she'd previously debunked them.

This, this is what real journalists do when one news source breaks a story which they, too, feel they ought to cover. You check it for yourself, you fact-chack their claims, and only re-report them if they check out. (Five minutes with Google News would prove clearly that they didn't.)(And, speaking of credit where it's due, "E Entertainment News" -- not a source I consider a paragon of responsible journalism -- was, as far as I can see, the first to debunk this ludicrous non-story, so well-done to "E" as well.)

If they don't check out, you debunk the story, which not only gives you a legitimate news story, it makes your competitor look bad, which should be fun, and makes overall journalism better, as it makes it more likely that shoddy journalists will be revealed and shamed. This is as great a collection of "wins" as you'll ever hear or see.

Special note: I've been told that every school of journalism will tell you that it's perfectly ethical to report on another news source's reporting. When the New York Daily News runs a gossip piece, regurgitating old rumors about a famous actress who attends a nearby university being teased, and placing that regurgitation next to a statement that the actress has left that school, thus giving the impression that mockery has driven her from her place in that school, these people will tell you that every journalism school in the country will tell you that it's perfectly legitimate to report that. That there's nothing unethical about running stories headlined Celebrity bullied out of Ivy League school that simply states that the New York Daily News reported it.

Are you a reporter or editor who went to journalism school and was taught that?

If so, I'm here to tell you that your journalism school is wrong. Your professor with a PhD in Journalistic Ethics, if he said that, is wrong. And you, if you believe it is okay to run a story that is nothing more than a restatement of another source's story, interspersed with the phrase "The report said," are wrong.

Do journalism, real journalism, reporting and confirming and fact-checking before you run your story, and run only stories that check out as true, or shut the fuck up and go away, because you are killing one of the most important pillars of our free society.

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