Thursday, April 5, 2012

Edward R. Murrow Must Be Rolling Over in His Grave

Trey Smith

For those who still believe a democracy needs traditional journalism, this is a harrowing time, to say the least. Local newspapers, for a century the foundation of real reporting, continue laying off the reporters doing the scratch-and-claw work of covering communities. At the same time, more media resources than ever are somehow being plowed into media coverage of the media — an unself-consciously narcissistic “never forget, we’re the real story” phenomenon most recently glorified in the documentary “Page One,” a retch-inducing heroization of the media desk at the New York Times. Meanwhile, a new push is on to distort what journalism actually is, from editors and reporters being paid by and/or investing in the industries they cover, to journalism schools changing their missions to include corporate marketing. The very definition of “journalist” is being reimagined by those aiming to enrich themselves. And, of course, all this is happening as the relatively few genuine journalists left in America are periodically lambasted for the horrific crime of actually reporting real news and questioning power.

But for all of these trends, none is more disturbing than recent moves to challenge the the basic assumption that journalism is even necessary anymore. In an economy that fetishizes synthetic derivatives rather than tangible products and in a political cauldron that periodically manufactures notions of “post-partisan,” “post-racial” and “post-industrial” utopias, the ascendant notion in the media industry is that news organizations and American democracy can survive and thrive in a “post-journalism” era — one that wholly removes journalism from the news media.
~ from A Journalism-Free News Media by David Sirota ~
If you've ever wondered WHY I begin many of my posts with a snippet/quote (such as the one above), it goes back to my education and training as a journalist. We were taught the importance of citing sources. That's why I make it a point to note the title of the article AND its author. If you follow the link, you will discover the website itself.

As an avid reader of the daily news and political commentary, I feel it is of the utmost importance to give credit where credit is due. Sure, I could pretend that the various topics I expound upon just came into my head like a comet out of the blue, but that would be dishonest. Most of the time, I am reacting to something I read and so I cite what I'm reacting to.

I earned a BA in journalism in 1988. While the profession had already eroded somewhat from its earlier heyday, we still were taught the importance of legwork, research, interviewing skills and following a story wherever it may lead. All of these things appear to be lacking for the vast majority of news organizations and reporters in the current climate.

These days the mainstream media has become an extended organ of government. Reporters rarely try to ascertain anymore IF what government officials say -- often off-the-record -- is reliable or not. They just go with whatever info they are fed and treat it like ironclad fact.

Of course, the problem with this tack is that governments and their "officials" lie. It has ALWAYS been this way. It doesn't matter what kind of government we refer to. Democracies, monarchies and dictatorships lie. Capitalist, socialist and communist governments lie. Secular and religious states lie. They all do it to protect the interests of the leaders and the powers that be.

The role of journalists is to put the lies to the test, to try to figure out what is true and not true. Once this determination is made, all the pertinent information is laid out for readers, viewers or listeners to form their own opinions.

It should go without saying that formulating these decisions is not an objective pursuit. Every reporter and news outfit has its own biases and perspectives. These variables certainly will color the news as presented. However, those reporters and news outfits that exhibit the greatest integrity will choose to follow the story wherever it leads, even if it goes against their own biases.

Unfortunately, as Sirota makes clear in his column, journalists are being replaced at breakneck speed with opinion disseminators. They work for news corporations that no longer employ staff to do much of any legwork. Instead, they receive their copy from government and corporate organs and then merely offer their opinions on the information provided WITHOUT attempting to discern the veracity of the "news" they share.

And you wonder why so many Americans are in the dark? The light bulb of journalism has been turned off.

1 comment:

  1. Having a free press doesn't just mean allowing the media to report on whatever it wants. It also means the media is doing its job to inform people about what is happening in the world. By that definition, America does not have a free press. The mainstream media that most American sheep get their news from are keeping people in the dark and distracting them from the issues that will affect them the most.

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