There is one thing that sets a democracy apart from all other worlds, that makes it ‘better’. It is the thing that keeps public officials accountable, citizens informed. It is the one institution to which anyone should be able to turn for information, for guidance, for knowledge that is not shackled, that is unbiased and untainted. It is an institution that has caused corrupt governments to crumble and that has lifted hope for hundreds for generations. It is the institution that carries the most intense, civically-responsible load, and is vital to the health and growth of society.
Sadly, this responsibility falls on the press pool, and apparently this is a pool no one else would want to swim in, because it has been thoroughly pissed in. Yes, yellow journalism lives, abounds, and is not a small concern.
Ironically, journalism was my first calling. I wanted to help break the stories of corruption, to bring the stories of hope and strength, of human perseverance. I wanted to be the vessel that carries information – verified, accurate, true, unbiased information – to the people who needed to know facts in order to make the decisions that impact their daily lives. I wanted to make a difference, in an arena where no one could spin their own agenda, because the integrity of the press was sacred – no politician could buy us, no business could control our words, no thug intimidate us or keep us from printing reporting the truth.
Most people don’t know of my dream to become a reporter. It’s something I definitely don’t brag about, because I am completely ashamed to want to associate with an institution that now feeds off misery for a headline, who reports inane celebrity crap as a breaking news story that impacts my life, that ignores all precepts and practices of being a voice for the people by selling out to political agendas. There should be NO political agenda with any journalist. The individual’s political leaning should not enter into their reporting at all, just as a teacher’s religious leanings should not color the lessons they offer to their students. If they want to participate in religious or political agendas, they are more than welcome to when they are not wearing their professional hats. If they feel they want to lean more towards supporting a candidate, they are welcome to, but they should then make that their profession.
At what point did it become okay for news channels to ‘take sides’, reporting only what they want, that supports their agenda, only in a light that benefits that agenda? When did it become okay to sell out to politicians, to the political agenda, leaving principles and morals in the ditch? The media plays a critical role in our society, tending to everyone’s needs, impartially, because in order for democracy to work, that is required. Balance for all sides of a story are required, and in fact are the sole responsibility of the press. It is what they signed on it do. If they want to beat a particular drum, they should do it at their own expense, not presenting it as truth when it is tainted fruit from a twisted tree. The press should have the balls, and does have the responsibility, to not sell out to political pandering. I am absolutely unable to name any one media outlet who can today, right now, say they are not touting a biased agenda based on ratings, ad sales, corporate sponsorship or political affiliation, and in some cases, all these biases combined.
When did it become okay to celebrate the grief of a community or a nation in order to sell ad space? How can it ever be justified when a microphone is shoved into the face of a grieving family to ask absolutely asinine questions like ‘will you miss him’ or ‘was he a nice boy?’ Is that what we are now reduced to? A society where truth doesn’t matter, because lies and spin are what sell ad space? Let the damned politicians do the spinning – it’s what they are good at, but YOU, the journalists have a fiduciary responsibility, an inherent bond based on unconditional trust, to rise above that spin and report the truth. When did it become okay to report the childish behavior of a pseudo-star as a headline while the starving of a child or the killing of a person is relegated to the middle of the paper, below the fold – the placement a clear indication of their position in society?
Is there no source for verified, unbiased, unspun news anymore? The political climate has become incredibly polarized – because the truth had a price and the media could be bought. News channels and newspapers no longer inform. They instead fan the flames of hatred and fear, promoting the agenda of their puppet masters.
In the last week, we have seen tragedy in Boston, and we have seen reporters offering unverified information as breaking news, choosing the chance of a big scoop over the need to verify with more than one source. (Yes, CNN, I am talking about you, buying into the feeding frenzy of people changing to you as the twitterverse explodes with repeated chirps that you are reporting an arrest). In one case, the report was definitely based on an agenda of promoting fear and hatred (Yes, FOX news, I am talking about you, taking the easy road within hours to point the finger at a Saudi national, while having absolutely no fucking clue what you were talking about. Damn, those pesky fucking details about truth.) Last night, in the wake of a horrific explosion in Texas, even as authorities on site are pleading with media outlets to not speculate on the number of fatalities, the reporters STILL did, actually having the gall to preface it with the acknowledgement that they should not be saying this. Does that make it okay? Not only was it speculated on, it was built on, with absolutely NO foundation, and yes, it was sickening to watch as the speculation grew. (Yes, Rosemary at CNN, this one is directly intended for you!) Last night as the news broke about a fertilizer plant exploding and houses being destroyed in the blast, the media again speculated on why there would be a factory near homes. How frigging ignorant can you possibly be? It has nothing to do with the incident, was totally inappropriate and showed the narrow-mindedness of reporters (Yes, Erin Burnett of CNN) to ask a question that implies publicly that there was some irresponsibility on the part of the town planners, without even knowing the size or layout of the damned town or considering the magnitude of the explosion. It was again an opportunity to look for an angle that didn’t exist, someone to blame, some way to exploit people who are suffering, all for a non-story.
Journalism and the media are the cornerstone of democracy. They are the conduit to the public of what is happening, what they need to know. They have absolutely no business cherry-picking what aspect or angle, and they have no right to exploit the truth for their own agendas, be they political or monetary. Yellow Journalism – the reporting of information that is biased, unverified, or blatantly untrue for the sole purpose of selling the news. Yes, that is ALL we seem to have now. It is why our political system is crumbling, it is why our social structure is now sitting on a fault line. It is why I want nothing to do with the industry. It is an embarrassment, and unless and until they stop selling their scruples for the sake of money, democracy is doomed.