Tuesday, April 16, 2013

There is a New Shade of Yellow for Today's Journalism

I never wanted to be an astronaut. Isn't that one of the things little boys say when they're asked what they wanted to be when they grow up?  That one never appealed to me. I wanted to do other things. I wanted to be an actor, a writer, a cop, or a reporter.  Even at a young age, I had an ingrained desire to tell the truth, uncover lies and help bring justice. It's probably why I never had much confidence in authority figures as well. They were the ones who seemed to be doing the most lying. I lived in the Watergate era.

Somewhere around junior high, I decided I would be a journalist, so I took journalism in high school. Yearbook. Newspaper. I even changed schools in the afternoon so I could attend magnet classes in broadcast journalism.  I was never a fan of on camera work, but I loved to write the news, or report it on the local radio station the school ran.  I wanted to be the next Lou Grant or Woodward and Bernstein. I wanted to go undercover and break the news. I'm sure I had a pretty glamorous vision of it, but it was what I wanted to do.  The plan was to attend Ball State University, as they had an excellent Journalism program, and there was no way I could afford Columbia.

And then it all changed. I don't remember if there was a specific incident, or what, but suddenly journalism seemed to be taking an ugly turn. It was becoming less about telling the truth and more about getting the ratings, or readership. That's back in the day when the newspaper was the primary source of news.

Fast forward far too many years later and look at the shape of the media today. We have conservative news outlets selling their slant. Liberal outlets selling theirs. It seems there's no middle of the ground, "just the facts," news anymore. The five W's and H.  Everyone has an agenda, parent companies to protect, or some slant that makes them biased. We might as well be the Soviet Union, circa 1980, when the government controls the news.  Our controllers are corporations and lobbyists 

I'm sure there are still good journalists out there who haven't thrown up their hands in defeat and have taken up writing stereo instructions as a living, but they can't get heard.  The editors push for more blood, more guts, more sensationalism. "Go ask that parent of the child murdered how they feel," is their new assignment. "Get more pictures of the mangled bodies," the photographers are told.

I don't completely blame the media for the downfall of humanity, but it does make for great ratings.


  1. I did take J classes as part of my Communication degree. It was still the era of impartial reporting, where you needed to investigate all sides of the story and then report fairly. You also learned the rules of not exploiting the victims, not publishing photos which took advantage of the dead, and removing sensationalism.

    I still never felt the call toward journalism. I liked fiction too much--with its truthier truths. But all those idealistic tenets seem to be totally gone now. There is no effort to offer the truth. Instead it is all about the speculation and talking heads. No thanks.

  2. I turned on CNN for approximately 5 minutes yesterday before I decided to just unplug from everything. I sort of wish you hadn't given up on Journalism, they could use someone like you. :)