Poor journalism severs trust between news consumers and producers
I wrote my first Op/Ed article for a school newspaper in my sophomore year of high school.
It was about grassroots progress and activism regarding a letter-writing campaign to President Obama, and I’m pretty sure my opinion could be summarized as, “Wow, this is great.”
But I was so proud of that article—even though it really wasn’t my best writing and the opinion part of it was severely lacking—because it marked my first foray into journalism.
It was also the first time I saw my name in print in something independent of a classroom project.
I’m one of those super intense news consumers you’ve probably heard about. I page through most of the sections of “The New York Times” and “The Guardian”, as well as the top headlines on Slate, NPR, Salon and “The New Yorker” every day.
I watch “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” with an almost religious fervor, and make an effort to catch the 6 o’clock news on TV whenever possible. Figured out my political allegiance yet?
In case it hasn’t already become abundantly clear, journalism means a lot to me.
It’s not my chosen career path, and I doubt that I’ll ever do more than write for a newspaper every now and then, but it’s still very important in my life.
And this is exactly why I’d like to talk about how disappointed I am by the state of
journalism right now. More often than not, instead of honest and objective reporting, we’re being subjected to sensationalism and click-baiting and “pundits” screaming at the camera.
I know that this topic has already been discussed at length by hundreds of people, but I want to spend a bit of time exploring why the falling standards of journalism are so frustrating.
Journalism, at its true core, is supposed to be about spreading truth. For as long as the profession has existed, journalists have sought to enlighten the common man about people and places they might not otherwise encounter.
Forgive me for rhapsodizing about an occupation that is seeing its popularity drastically decline, but journalism is meant to be good and noble.
We’re supposed to trust journalists to provide accurate information about an ever-changing world.
And yet, we, as a society, no longer do. That, I think, is the crux of the problem.
If an outlet is supposed to inform and instruct, but instead serves to divide and propagandize, then we naturally feel betrayed.
Who can blame us? The same news sources that brought us such great reporters from Walter Cronkite to Dorothy Thompson, Edward R. Murrow to Jane Meyer, Tom
Brokaw to Gloria Steinem—now spend the majority of their time furthering partisan political agendas.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that true journalism is dead, or that good journalists are nowhere to be found.
If this were the case, I would not spend hours of my day immersed in news media. In fact, there are still shows and newspapers where just the news is reported—for example, the PBS NewsHour has been critically lauded for its ability to separate fact from bias—so it can be done.
What I am saying is that there are several problems with the majority of journalistic sources right now, all of which combine to mislead us.
The news media is constantly blurring the line between factual news itself and editorials, choosing to cherry-pick facts and formulating opinions based on a slanted knowledge base of information.
When actual news is being skated over in order to deepen a partisan divide, that’s when the problem occurs.
It’s very simple: the truth does not contain any bias and neither should a true journalistic source.
I have no problem with people having opinions, but analysis shouldn’t replace facts.
Partial information from any news source leads to uninformed judgments on
the part of the reader or viewer—the bias at the source level is then replicated at the consumer level.
We might expect politicians to skew the facts, but journalists should not.
The news is supposed to be above petty ratings games, and yet, that is all we see. We constantly see news sources sacrifice accuracy for speed.
The emphasis is now on shock and entertainment, with the words “BREAKING NEWS” constantly blaring on the screen, and reporters often sensationalizing simple events to gain that extra viewer or Facebook like.
Moreover, it seems that news sources often patronize us by dumbing down the news into “bite-size” clips. In an effort to compensate for society’s shortening attention spans, news sources often refuse to go into discourse or detail.
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart recently addressed this issue when he denounced a CNN news segment in which complex news topics are reduced to either “good things” or “bad things” after minimal discussion.
This is not how journalism is supposed to work.
Journalists cannot expect to regain our trust if they do not change the way they provide the news.
In a time when our politicians are constantly at battle with each other and the world gets more complex each passing day, we need journalists to be able to tell us the truth. It’s the most important job they have—and right now, most of them are failing miserably.
Reshma Gouravajhala is a junior biology and psychology major from Devon, Pa. She can be reached at email@example.com.