Journalists (and Other Professionals) Take Note: We Do Want You to Have Standards

I’ve always been pretty uptight about the idea of standards, thinking we should all have them and abide by them in our work and personal lives. I thought that made me terribly old-fashioned and outdated and I was ok with that, but a recent WeMedia/Zogby Interactive poll gave me some hope that I am not alone.

Among the findings, the survey found that two thirds of Americans are not satisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities. This applied to journalists working all types of media – print, broadcast and online.

Well, yippee!

Several years ago I gave up watching local television news because, well, it wasn’t news. There was plenty of creative marketing and ad copyrighting present but very little journalism. I chalked it up to playing to the ratings game and now take heart that Americans want more.

I have been chewing on this whole concept for a week or so since I saw the poll findings and then found the perfect illustration for this issue. While watching my favorite reality TV indulgence, Bravo’s Top Chef , the red team gave me the perfect analogous lesson.

This was season 4, episode 3. The red and blue teams were tasked with serving food for a neighborhood block party. The red team decided the key to success was playing to the people with their menu and presentation and served burgers and corn dogs, all but abandoning what they know as trained chefs. They figured they really sealed their success when they drank and played with the crowd after serving the meal, even taking turns in the dunk tank. They thought they were a lot of fun – much better than that boring red team that simply served their fare and cleaned up.

Well, the Top Chef judges gave them a true reality check. They were named the losing team, because their food was beneath the standards for their culinary skills and being “fun” wasn’t the task at hand. Alright!

So, journalists, public relations professionals, communicators and all other professionals always remember the blue team. Do your job and do it well. Adhere to the professional standards you were trained to understand and to follow. That may not make you the most popular person all the time, but in the end it will earn you the respect you deserve as a professional (and you won’t even have to submit to the dunk tank!)