After 2016, send the bad, boastful, and biased journalists packing
The “media” has always been scrutinized. Now, and especially, regarding our 2016 unprecedented presidential election, the media has come under fire like never before.
Do we really want to shoot the messenger? Well, yes, because the messenger has seemingly become the news, and also the legitimate target of our suspicions.
There are so many facets to the media that, when we criticize, we sometimes forget to specify which medium. And more importantly, which offender within the specific medium to single out.
Often, it boils down to a personality contest within the television broadcast media. With radio, it’s often either the comforting, authoritative or grating sound of a voice. In print, of course, it’s the writing style and credibility. In fact, in all the above cases, “the writing” is the key element.
Because, after all, we are all seeking the truth. Aren’t we?
I’m just talking about the news media here. We’ll leave movies, music, celebrity culture, telephones, iPods, smart phones, and even the less-traversed corners of the Internet for another day. Same for telegraph, smoke signals, grunting, and bodily functions. These are all media, and all legitimate forms of communication. Actually, we’ll give the Internet it’s own special day since it has earned a capital “I.”
So, who do you trust today? And, most importantly, why?
Data on trust in media orgs via @YouGovUS polling. Newspapers beat cable news on trust, but views unsurprisingly polarized. Breitbart last. pic.twitter.com/IG7LiR87mn
— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) October 20, 2016
There is the left wing, liberal media and the right wing. There’s fair and balanced news (yeah, right). There’s Bill Maher, there was Jon Stewart. And then there is Rush Limbaugh, and a host of other blabbermouths who think they know something. Often, they do. More often, they don’t.
And mostly, we’re not sure whether to laugh or cry.
No matter what political or moral slant a particular media outlet, network, station, news source has, the constant editorializing, personal and emotional opining, sometimes subtle or unwitting as it may be, does influence the viewer, listener, and reader’s opinion. And I guess that’s the name of the game. Duh!
The point being, we don’t think for ourselves anymore — all of us, Millennials, baby boomers and even geriatrics. We let the media do it for us.
We don’t drill down even a little to get the facts. We let the media lead us by the nose and shape our thinking for us, while we (many of us) would rather spend our time researching on our smartphones which sushi restaurant is the best, or who serves the best pizza, or which new smartphone to buy.
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These seem to be the issues that matter most in our lives of cake and circuses.
Good investigative journalism is the cornerstone of American democracy. The First Amendment is a beautiful thing. It’s shouldn’t be abused, dishonored or disrespected.
Truth and justice are usually flushed out with good investigative journalism. Sometimes the information is suppressed, sometimes it’s not pretty, sometimes people are embarrassed, sometimes people die.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate story is a famous example of the power of the investigative journalist. Michael Hastings’s “Rolling Stone” story about General Stanley McChrystal is a good example of the danger to which the investigative journalist is exposed, even within our own society. Not to mention the kind of international danger exposed to journalists by people like the infamous Jihadi John.
Investigative journalists literally put their lives on the line in the name of truth. News anchors today are chained to their desk (perhaps gladly) and seemingly expose to nothing more serious than their own ratings. They are actors groomed and trained to entertain from a “personality” perspective.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Walter Cronkite sincerely, humbly wept on air when Kennedy died. Recently, however, Brian Williams had to apologize on air for being a phony and bragging, lying, about his own importance and credibility as a … what?
What would he be considered? A broadcast journalist, a news “anchor,” an investigative journalist? There is such a big difference between and among these job descriptions, yet we place them on the same level of credibility and truthfulness.
What does it say about our own collective capacity for ignorance or apathy when we will overlook a potential crime committed by, say, a Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE regarding carelessness with sensitive state information while another state official, a military general, with a similar crime is convicted, sentenced and fined. If not imprisonment, her infraction should certainly disqualify her from running for and possibly becoming the president of the United States.
Where are the investigative journalists to nail this political phenomenon down? What games are the candidates, the administration, the FBI, Congress and the media, playing?
Not to overdo the recent Bob Dylan literature resurgence, but there is a line in one of his songs, “Sweetheart Like You,” that seems to apply here:
“Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.”
We carpet bomb the media with criticism, yet like a cancer they persist. We try to kill the messenger, yet he rises from the dead (Williams is down but not out at MSNBC). You almost have to admire that.
Talk about stamina. I just hope we’re not confusing stamina with arrogance. The arrogance and thin veneer of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech is not a license to mislead, lie, and cheat the even unwitting public out of the truth.
The American media needs a biopsy. Investigative journalism has become more like “open wound journalism,” and we need to determine whether it’s malignant or benign.
Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.
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