In 2018, for the first time in history, the United States was placed in the top five most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
That year was particularly rough for American media. There was the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Saudi Arabian royal insider who was known for being a profound critic of the Crown Prince. His murder was traced all the way to the top, yet despite one of our own being executed for doing his job, we continued with Saudi Arabia as if nothing had happened.
June 28, 2018, saw the tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper, which resulted in five dead and several injured. The gunman had resentment for the paper after they published an article related to his criminal activities back in 2011.
Now, America didn’t make that list in 2019, and that’s a great thing. But with recent events, I’m not so sure we won’t rank again in 2020. You see videos of police officers taking dead aim at identified journalists, shooting them with rubber bullets and lobbing tear gas at them. It has been absolutely gut-wrenching to see that happen on our own soil, but it hit deeper when one of my good friends and college classmates got tear gassed while trying to document the peaceful protests in Omaha recently.
As egregious as this all sounds, I actually believe there are more dangers for American journalism than just the physical ones.
Some of you may think that the protests are over, that everyone has given up and gone home, but that really couldn’t be less the case. The movement is in full-swing and the momentum is continuing. However, I can’t fault you for potential lack of awareness, as the fault is ours, the media as a whole.
A good percentage of media only seems to care about the protests when they turn violent. Whether it is because the ‘riots’ fit the narrative that the organization is trying to push or just pure sensationalism. Yet , as peaceful protests continue, the cameras turn off and the spectacle is over.
That repulses me. Yes, you want the news to be entertaining, engaging, eye-catching and important to the reader. But we aren’t entertainers; we are reporters. Our job is to inform you of what is happening and to document life as it unfolds.
As for a narrative, it is true that all media has a viewpoint, and there is no such thing as a complete lack of bias. However, it is important to identify that to yourself. For example, I would say that most small-town newspapers have a bias to their community, and I feel as if that is a healthy bias. But when the bias you have is based on some sort of ideology, you’re no longer a reporter, you’re a hack.
You see this issue a lot with the 24 hour cable news stations. I honestly hate to call them that. Don’t twist my words: I have met some absolutely fantastic reporters from CNN, Fox News and many of the other big companies, and they simply want to do their job. But the executives, the powers that be, they have hosts state the news and provide their opinions with little disconnect between the two.
See, you can tell this is my opinion despite all the factual information I’ve included, thanks mainly to that giant word at the top of this page that says ‘Opinion.’ But you never see that word pop-up when Tucker Carlson is talking about how African-Americans are planning a race war. It’s delivered as fact, viewers consume it as fact, and nothing is truly learned. An already existing ideology is reinforced and the world is worse off for it.
Of course, then again, we have been dubbed “the fake news media.”
I have been called this by random strangers since I was a nervous cameraboy in college, and continue to catch the occasional guff as a nervous cameraman in the field. Which, when you know for a fact that these people have never seen or read any of your work, is really aggravating. I wonder where they got this idea?
Now, liberals reading this, don’t feel too good about yourself just yet, cause y’all are guilty too. I have witnessed people be downright rude to reporters simply due to the Fox logo on their camera. Regardless of your issues, take it up with the manager and leave us fry cooks out of it.
All this has done is caused a further rift, fortifying the two different echo chambers to the point where actual false journalism is allowed to slide by. Just recently, Fox News posted an article on their website with pictures claiming to be from the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, but they were actually taken at different protests by completely different photographers.
The powers that be wanted to make the events look worse, it’s what their viewers want and it gets clicks, to the point where they sacrificed integrity. Worst of all, when they got called out, nothing happened. They took it down and that was it. The president didn’t take to Twitter to lambaste Fox News with claims of being fake. It was silent.
It’s almost like it was never about being factual or ethical, but about giving the audience what they want to hear.
Which is the problem that scares me most, because you see it in all aspects of journalism. I understand the content media provides needs to be something that will actually be consumed, as that’s what draws advertisers. Yet when you let that be the priority, you’re no longer news.
Sometimes, when you open a newspaper or turn on the TV, you’re not going to like what you witness. It’s going to rub you in a different way, and that’s how it should be. The news isn’t always good, or something you care about, but that doesn’t make it any less news!
I’ve mentioned this before in a column, but I feel it important to mention again. When I’m reporting, whether it’s taking photographs or writing an article, I’m not writing for anybody who is currently reading it (sorry mom). I’m not writing it for someone who will read it soon. I’m writing it for the future.
I want people to be able to look at clips at Gibson Memorial some day in 2060 and understand what the world was like in Creston. That’s the goal I aim for, and it’s a similar goal that many respectable journalists across the nation share.
Today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Let’s not hide the truth from the future.