Jim Hayes was a founding director of the Brock Center and a Cal Poly journalism professor for 23 years. In 1992 Hayes retired, but his teaching career didn’t end there. His reporting, teaching and coaching career carried on for over 60 years.
Sponsored by the Cal Poly Journalism Department, Journalism Advisory Board, The Brock Center for Agricultural Communications, Journalism Department alumni and friends and family of Jim Hayes, the day brought together students, educators, journalists, communications professionals, scholars and the public to address the topic of ethical communication.
For those who weren’t able to attend the symposium, here are eight lessons we learned and were reminded of from listening to the speakers:
1. Use words carefully.
Peter King, Executive Director of Public Affairs for the University of California, shared with us at the event, “Jim Hayes spent his whole life trying to find the right word.” As journalists and communicators it is easy to get lazy. The speakers at the symposium heavily stressed that Jim Hayes was tireless, especially when it came to his word choice. The perfect wording can change the entire effect of the piece you are producing.
2. Work hard.
Beginning with the first word on the page you have to work to get the truth, King additionally pointed out. In order to produce the best story or article hard work needs to be done first.
3. Be curious.
Seek out new information and continuously work hard to learn to the truth. “Jim’s caffeine to find the truth was curiosity,” King shared.
4. Facts need to be right.
In this pressured time every fact we post needs to be correct. What good is it to be first if the information isn’t even correct? “It’s important to be right. It’s nice to be first, but it’s always most important to be right,” Judy Muller journalism professor at USC explained.
6. News literacy is the heart of preserving journalism.
In a rapidly changing world, we need to uphold correct and accurate communication as well as educate the audience of the future. Muller shared that news literacy is the difference between inference and evidence.
7. Communicate the weighted evidence.
The responsibility to share evidence is important for all parties. No matter what side of an issue you are on, you need to report the weighted evidence even if it doesn’t support your side. According to Muller, the question to ask yourself is, “Does the communicator provide the best evidence by all parties about the public’s risk and safety?”
8. Remember “The Look.”
David Kerley, a national correspondent for ABC News, explained this was the look that changed his life. According to Kerley, there are three questions associated with this look that you should always ask yourself before releasing any information: 1. Are you right? 2. Are you fair? 3. Did you give opportunity for the subject to comment?