15 July 2013

Rudyard Kipling's lessons in journalism


I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

These lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem give journalists a way to remember the questions they must answer when reporting news.

KTVU Channel 2 in the San Francisco Bay area didn’t quite meet Mr ‘Who’ of the six honest serving-men. The station’s news programme believed they had an exclusive when they revealed the names of the Asiana 214 pilots.

“Captain Sum Ting Wong”, “Wi Tu Lo”, “Ho Li Fuk”, and “Bang Ding Ow”.

“Who?”

And it has been two years to the day since the News of the World shut down because of the phone hacking scandal. They corrupted ‘How’.

Kipling’s six honest serving-men suddenly lost a couple of deserters.

I leave them with a few lines from another Kipling poem:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating...

No wonder the public distrust journalists.

Deal in lies and you will be hated.

If you don't, then, you'll be a journalist, my son!

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