Make no bones about it, everyone has an agenda.
Sometimes we are conscious of this, mostly we are not.
In our modern times, just about everything that makes the news has been stage-managed to get there – everything. Even what can appear to be ‘slip ups’ are often stage-managed, sometimes to test public opinion, sometimes because someone has set someone else up for a fall.
The trick for citizen journalists and media operators is to:
a) recognise there is an agenda – including your own,
b) attempt to work out what that agenda might be, and
c) if you are in training to be a citizen journalist, distance yourself from that agenda.
This does not mean you do not or cannot have an opinion – it’s just that you must be aware of the range of influences on that opinion, including your own belief systems (conscious and unconscious) and the belief systems/agendas of friends, colleagues and professional contacts.
And it doesn’t mean that you can’t interview someone who has an agenda (news wouldn’t exist if that was the case).
It’s just a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open and ensuring that everything you write can be verified and is attributed to someone or something (such as a report). See Fact or Opinion?
If someone contacts you with ‘information’ they think you might be interested in – thank them, listen to them and take a giant step back.
Ask yourself – what is their agenda? What’s in it for them? Are they using me to peddle a particular opinion? This is as true for those who want to be citizen journalists as is it for those who want to attract news media coverage.
Again, it’s important to remember that having an agenda is not necessarily positive or negative.
In reporting a story, you have an agenda – to write a great story. In seeking news media attention, you have an agenda – to say something interesting enough that attracts support for your ideas, group, business or organisation.
A community can have an agenda, as in the case of the CSG issue – to ban or minimise CSG mining. So too politicians have an agenda – to please everyone (voters, upon whom they are dependent for their jobs and who oftentimes are friends and family; big business, to whom they may be indebted for campaign funding, as well as with whom they might enjoy close personal association).
And of course there are the CSG miners, who have invested massive amounts of time and money and resources to achieve a particular outcome – mining CSG.
All this you must consider and balance in your reporting – and your response to a media story – with respect for all stakeholders and with a commitment accuracy and fair play. This will ensure you develop a reputation as a) a credible citizen journalist and/or b) a credible media spokesperson.
Here’s a key question to help you work with agendas: Is this true?