The Media, that blobby entity for good

News.jpg

It’s super easy to blame the media for not covering the news we want. Whether or not it’s true, we blame them because they’re an easy target – a blobby, nebulous entity with an ulterior motive. And even though we live on a planet where everyone videos everything, where everyone wants to be an influencer, and everyone under 50 wants to enjoy viral Brad Pitt-level success, there remains a need for journalism.

  • Why didn’t the media cover Puerto Rico better?
  • Why isn’t the media coming down harder on Trump after that crazy speech?
  • The media won’t cover female presidential candidates?
  • Why isn’t the media right where I want them to be right when I expect it?

Is it possible those who ask aren’t watching or reading enough news? Are they asking “Where’s the media coverage of (this story) or (that story)?” on social media because they only get their news from social media? Does it need to be written that news on social media is cherry-picked and not all-inclusive of the journalistic engine at large?

Does it need to be written that news agencies follow trends like the rest of us, reporting on news that affects our daily lives, and even news we’ve told them we want to read? The Kardashians are famous because we’ve made them famous.

Listen, the media are people who report the news. Their role is not to editorialize your interests. They try, but they often fail. And it’s not their job. A reporter reports.

Imagine if no one offered news anymore and your only source of information came from social media. How much of it would you believe? Forget a socialist society, forget living under a dictatorship, we’d all be a labor class ruled by a few rich people who consider us no better than bugs. We’d be uninformed, uneducated, and have no voice.

That’s what the news is, a voice for the voiceless. It strives to create an informed populace. On it’s best day, it’s there to tell you why things happened the way they happened. On its worst day, it grovels to those who want to kill the messenger, then bitch when there’s no mail.

When complaining of media neglect, or a lack of reporting on something you find important, check yourself first by following simple rules of conduct.

  • Were these news agencies absent from this story because they’re understaffed? These days many are
  • Check online to verify your claim of news-neglect. There are probably stories
  • Question the source. Where did you get the information you’re sharing?
  • Lastly, question the motivation. Is there a reason this wasn’t covered in a satisfactory way? Remember the 2016 election; if you found it on social media and you can’t tell it’s from a reliable news agency, it’s click bait

If there’s one thing to take away from this rant it’s this; your blobby entities need support. We have to fight the trick. The real blobby, nebulous entity is the group trying to convince the public not to believe what they read and to even hate those who strive to give you a voice.

Down with those A-holes.

It may be dirty, but the free press is our best defense

FreePress

Journalism is meant, on its best day, to provide checks and balances for those in power. Those who make decisions that ripple through our jobs, our welfare, and our checkbooks have to be held accountable for their decisions. If it weren’t for watchdogs, Americans would drown under the rule of those who care little for anything and anyone beyond their own interests. We would be manipulated, lied to, and used as cogs in a machine –necessary but ultimately forgettable. In a free society, the news is intended to provide all Americans with the information needed to make an intellectual decision. It’s not intended to convince you how to think on a particular subject, or even on a particular candidate, but it will furnish the tools we need to make a smart decision on the matter.

It’s not always perfect and it can be downright dirty. Ratings factor into the equation, as they do for most print and television offerings. Advertisers factor into the equation as well; news outlets are businesses at the end of the day. They have to make money to survive, but their mission has never been more clear. You’re simply not going to get all the facts, all the angles, nor the whole truth from those elected to positions of power. There are people in this country afraid of an informed population. Some news may sensationalize, some may muddy the line between editorializing and journalism, but more than anywhere else, the news media is there to inform. Their job is to ferret out the mischief and replace the tall tales with a sobering dose of reality.

This may seem like pie in the sky idealism, but as a former journalist, I know there is truth in reporting. Our reporters, covering beats from crime to education, are American citizens like the rest of us. They go home to families and watch football on the weekends. They vote, pay taxes, buy groceries, and carry degrees that instilled in them a belief that journalists should be a voice for the voiceless. Without journalists, the voiceless would be all but dead.

Recent attacks on the media are terrifying in that they are seeking to suppress the search for truth by lobbing derogatory labels like hand grenades, including the effort to label journalists as the “enemy of the people,” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Journalists ARE the people. Their job is to present the facts, while ours is to understand and use it however we see fit.

I stand with the Boston Globe as they, and more than one hundred other newspapers across the country, defend their voices from those who seek to silence them. On August 16th, these news organizations will publish editorials warning of the dangers of anti-press rhetoric. And don’t be fooled, the press is under attack, and an America without them would indeed be a country on fire.

Read more on the Boston Globe’s effort here.

 

 

OPINION: Stop Blaming the Media

Interviewing actor Jon Voight during a fundraiser
(and after a monsoon soaked everyone)
for the Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2013.

These days it’s trendy to blame the messenger.

The media is stirring the pot, inciting violence, lying to you, etc., as if they were a giant hive-mind not made up of men and women toiling in poverty, but determined to undermine the stability of every neighborhood in America. In the newspaper business, most reporters can’t afford rent without having a roommate or spouse with a better-paying job. Most of us reading a news story make more than the person who wrote it.

As a reporter I was part of the team that broke the story on the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots that perished in Yarnell, Ariz. I photographed President Obama and his family at Grand Canyon. I’ve hobnobbed with drug dealers and celebrities alike. I may not be a reporter anymore, but I still cling to the tenets instilled in me while earning my degree in journalism. I was never a Borg.

Money

There are issues with the media to be sure, one being the drive for money. Newspapers, television news, and the rest are businesses first and foremost. They are out to make money and they go where the money is. Fox News caters and delivers news to a largely conservative audience. CNN the opposite. And in the drive to deliver 24 hours of news every day, they dangerously over analyze and guess at possible answers.

But who chooses the news? You do.

News is often created by what you click.

What is trending on social media? Let’s do a story on it, Obviously that’s what people are interested in. And it probably has something to do with a Kardashian. Let’s look at our website and see what our most popular stories were last month. Let’s do more stories on that, even if it’s got something to do with an unfounded conspiracy dreamt up by a sociopath. The readers loved it.

You feed the algorithm

It’s that simple. You clicked on it. You scanned headlines and chose something, and that was recorded by a simple algorithm and reported to the folks who gather the news. In any business, you give your customers what they want, and they base what the public wants by what the public clicked.

Still want to blame the media? Go right ahead. Should the media behave more responsibly and operate in a vacuum? They won’t be in business long if they do. Should they become non-profits, controlled by the state, or produced for free? Think about it.

Let’s just call it a conspiracy.

It’s easier to click on questionable news sites where those educated in journalism are nowhere to be found, where you find lies that conform to your beliefs, whether left or right, rather than looking in the mirror. These sites sell you hyper-sensationalism and trade on paranoia. But trust them if you’d like. Trust they are telling you a truth not to be found anywhere else, even though there’s no way to know where these stories really came from – that these sites don’t make money from every click.

Do you really want mainstream media to behave differently? Stop clicking on the stories you complain about. Lay off the sex, the death and the cute animals acting like humans. Redirect the flow. Bring back the news that matters to you.

It’s in your hands.