Journalism is dead. Most people are quick to blame the internet and social networking sites for the hopefully unintentional murder of journalism and perpetuation of false news stories, but people, both today’s “journalists” and readers have to take responsibility for their part in the death of journalism. I like to break up tension with humor, and I’m the product of a generation split between old values and new hashtags. I will tie in both in this post. Oh, and bee tee dubs, the death of journalism subsequently means the death of news as well. You should be concerned.
From Paper to the Abyss
The internet puts the world in our hands. It allows us to see photos of other places and search information at the swipe of a finger. In the before time, people would typically access this type of information from two forms of paper: books and newspapers. The digital age took the knowledge from these pages and tossed them into an online abyss of facts, photos, information, opinions, hashtags, manipulated photos, cat videos, Spotify playlists, Beyonce memes and a slough of other (forgive my language) shit without providing any tools to decipher truth from satire and fact from opinion.
Birth of the Blog: Everybody Writes
(As a sister to brothers with Autism and Cerebral Palsy, I will preface the next paragraph by saying that my comments are in no way directed at anyone with special needs, especially those, like my brothers, who face communication challenges daily.)
Can everyone write, as in, does everyone have the physical ability to write? Yes, pretty much everyone can write. Can everyone write WELL? No. SHOULD everyone write? Hell to the no. What has thrown all these questions out the window? The Blog (dun dun duh!).
According to an article by NPR entitled Timeline: The Life of the Blog , the first online “blog” was posted in 1994. These OG blogs were not very different from the ones today, stemming from people’s personal experiences and opinions. Did you get that? Blogs come from people’s personal experiences and opinions and ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT NEWS. Now that we cleared that up, let’s move along.
A Conduit: Social Media
An older guy I worked with said that it’s important to tell people when you are about to talk real with them, and I follow that instruction when important, uncomfortable conversations arrive. Real talk, I love my family and friends, but those I’m connected to via social media do not always share credible information. In fact, there are like two people on FB that share actual news stories I can click and read without launching an online forensic files investigation, and even that has dwindled since the Election Day 2016.
We covered the delivery methods, including internet, social media and sharing, but we are about to delve into the core of the problem, the people. There are people actually creating the shit that they’re labeling as news, and there are other people then sharing that shit with others, still labeling it as news.
In 2008 I graduated with my BA in Journalism from Cal State Northridge. I remember telling people that I didn’t want to be a journalist because I didn’t want to be miserable, and it was true. I remember a speaker (whose name evades both my brain and the Google right now) from a panel in one of my final years of school. She talked about covering a story and staying in a hotel a few miles away from a beautiful beach in a town she had never visited. She was so consumed with writing her news article that she did not leave her room to explore the town, visit the beach or anything. Her advice to the group was to stop and take the time to admire where you are, where your job as a journalist may take you.
Her statement and the undertones of misery I sensed in my journalism professors at the time were the defining elements of my career choice, but I always deeply respected and admired their obsession and diligence in finding and accurately reporting the truth. They taught me the importance of being objective, and while no one can be truly objective due to our beliefs, upbringing, experiences, race and other defining qualities, it was a journalist’s job to trudge through all of that, put themselves aside and report the facts. I understand now the difficulties they faced, their dedication and of course, their misery, and I appreciate them so much for embodying these values and passing them along to me.
I felt that I was never strong enough to be a journalist. I love writing pieces about human interest that tug at your heartstrings and convince you to donate to a charity or something. Whether I did not think I had the skill set or I did not want to put in the effort to be a hardcore news writer, I removed myself from the profession because I knew that my personal interests and the way I want to write would impede my ability to write objectively. I wish today’s “news writers” would be so honest.
I placed the term in quotations and even gagged a little at the thought of calling today’s alleged news writers journalists because it places them in a group of folks with actual integrity and credibility. Of course I’m not speaking of all the new journalists. My very strong opinion is framed by news stories I encounter online via searches, through social media and unfortunately through some people who claim to be journalists.
I was “friends” with a journalist on social media, and I enjoyed most of the things she posted and shared because they were articles about current events, which is a nice, much-needed break from all the Mannequin Challenge videos, memes and goofy stuff. As the 2016 Presidential Election neared, it became very evident to me that she favored a particular political party, and at that point, I stopped reading her posts for the purpose of news and current events. I didn’t stop reading because she stopped being a good writer. I stopped reading because at that point she very clearly chose a side, and therefore no longer met the definition of what I consider to be an objective journalist and news writer.
A couple days after Election Day, after digesting all the hateful messages, posts and articles splattered across my feeds, I finally posted a pretty drawn out message calling out people saying things like, “Fuck America,” “I hate you for voting this way or that way,” and other hate speech attacking people’s right to vote and the country’s overall decision. I also instructed people who were offended by my post to unfollow me because I don’t like to repeat myself more than once. Guess who is no longer my online friend? That “journalist” buddy. I should mention that it was one of her posts that pushed me to my post.
Readers and Sharers
One of my FB friends posted an interesting article that stated that people were holding Facebook accountable for perpetuating fake news stories and potentially impacting the 2016 Presidential Election.The sad part is the fact that we as readers consumed these fake articles and shared them with our FB friends and maybe even our other social followers.
Journalism and the News
I know Hamilton: An American Musical is on the feeds catching heat for addressing Vice President Elect after a recent show, but I still very much admire Lin-Manuel Miranda’s speech about love. Love is love is love is love. Unfortunately, too many people think the same of the news. News is online. News is opinion. News is The Onion. News is the way I feel. News is satire. News is news is news is not.
News is not your opinion, and you, as a writer are NOT a credible source. News is objective, reporting both or all sides of an argument as equally as possible and all facts that fall between those sides. News informs you of issues and all the possible details, not just the ones that agree with you, make you feel comfortable, stroke your ego and cuddle your emotions.
A journalist is responsible for delivering the news to you, not creating it. There is a huge difference. News exists on its own, and when it breaks, a journalist researches it, isolates the facts and presents an article to you in a non-biased manner. A true news article does not tell you how to think, and it certainly does not point you in any direction towards either side of an argument or intentionally route you deep into your emotions. A real news journalist will writes articles without injecting a trace of themselves into it.
To today’s “journalists”, the news is not a platform for your opinions, emotions and beliefs. You can have your personal opinions because we’re all entitled to have them, but the moment you inject your views into your news articles, you forfeit the right to be called a news journalist. You can carry the title of writer or blogger, but you should stop calling yourself a news journalist. I know the platform of reporting the news has changed drastically, but it does not mean that integrity should waiver. Your news articles are meant to inform people, not to get likes or shares or happy-go-lucky-you’re-awesome comments. State the facts and tell the truth, despite its distance from your opinions.
To today’s readers, question everything you see online, especially on social media. If while reading an article you can tell the writer’s political affiliation or sense a particular opinion, stop reading. Find another article or multiple articles, if needed, to get all the facts. Make a note of reputable sources. For me, I usually turn to the Associated Press when I can’t tell which way is up. Always seek knowledge, but take the time to consider the source of that knowledge. And please, PLEASE check the information before sharing it.
Now, back to Ryan Gosling memes and hilarious versions of that song that was a gospel song but ended up an ode to Thanksgiving.