THE HUBRIS OF THE MAIN STREAM MEDIA
and THE “101” RULE
As one who watches the news with remote in hand, flipping back and forth trying to catch all takes on the news of the day, I find one thing glaringly evident. The once highly regarded “Fourth Estate” has something other than the public trust foremost on their agenda. They are clearly serving another master.
The hubris of the Main Stream Media is that they display such umbrage at losing control of the narrative to other sources like the internet, upstart journalists or other media outlets. They seem completely offended that the public doesn't swallow their representation of a given story without any further question. When actual facts come to light, countering their version of a story, their lack of professionalism is unmasked. Unfortunately for the public, accusations, finger pointing and even name calling ensue.
Those other sources are merely providing answers to questions that the majority of curious people want to know. How could that possibly be an affront to any journalist who is doing their best to ferret out relevant stories of the public interest and report on them objectively? The answer, of course, is that an opposing view has been put out there that may somehow undermine their integrity. They know that the opposing slant has some traction and they are either embarrassed or upset that their own personal view point has come into question. It may be their bosses personal view point.
First, and perhaps most important, is that it is not a journalist's job to control the message. We rightfully, expect an in-depth coverage of relevant facts observed from all sides. Editorials and opinion pieces are just that, but still need to be thorough.
I believe that most people who actually pay attention to the news realize that those in the MSM are gaming us. When we see one thing but it is being repeatedly and fervently reported to us as something else, we feel betrayed and distanced from those sources. The public is more informed now and can see when the are facts distorted, manipulated and omitted so that what is presented to us is merely their preconceived notion of what they believe we should know. They have, therefore lost the “public trust” to a large degree along with our respect. You can only tell people not to believe their lying eyes for so long before the the game is over.
Sadly, another effect of “news” people behaving as they have, is that too many in the public are ignoring the news all together. The overwhelming response when I ask someone what news channels they watch is “I don't watch the news” and “you can't believe anything they say.” That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for those who have the crucial responsibility of keeping the public informed.
Another sore point is the interminable obsession with attacking people. Coming out against a policy, brand of politics or point of view is certainly fair game but only in the opinion pieces. Personal attacks are not acceptable anywhere in the news media. We were taught that saying someone did something stupid was not the same thing as calling the person stupid. Aside from that, the MSM folks frequently just sound like they're whining to me. Ask my kids what I think about whiners.
The James O'Keeffe / ACORN story was just about the last straw for me. Rather than taking up the story and making an effort to completely report it, we heard whining about O'Keeffe and he became a story. Even with reports of ACORN's illegal activities and shady behavior for a decade, the MSM showed little interest in pursuing the obvious real story.
There is one prominent investigative journalist that really caught my attention when I first heard him. Early on I could see him following in the footsteps of some of the great news personalities. He even landed his own show. I saw him gradually succumb to what ever dark force it is that saps the greatness out of people like him. Then I finally lost all respect for him after he feebly reported on the O'Keeffe / ACORN story. I have to wonder what is so important to him that he would carelessly toss away all of his integrity and the respect he had once earned.
It was about this time that I thought it might be a good idea to educate myself on the Journalist's Creed and Journalism Code of Ethics. You know, kind of an abbreviated Journalism “101”. Maybe I was wrong about journalism all this time and it really was supposed to be this free-for-all, trading punches sort of spectacle we are exposed to these days. Perhaps I was just expecting way too much of these media personalities. Turns out though, I was right in the first place.
It should give journalist's pause that, when I Googled “journalist's” the first two items on the drop down list were journalist's creed and journalist's code of ethics. That should tell you that there are a whole lot of us out here wondering about the same kind of things that I am writing about here.
The second line of the Journalist's Creed reads: “I believe the public journal is a public trust, that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust”. Who then, are these journalist's paying service to instead of the public? I would recommend reading the creed and code of ethics to all of you reading this piece.
On now to my “101” Rule.
I have an example of the lesson to be learned here. The rule says: “Whatever you learn in the “101” class are most important things you need to know in that field.”
My favorite true story that I use to illustrate the rule is about a company where I once worked. The owner of the company gave over control to his intelligent, good looking and charismatic son who was freshly graduated with an MBA. The son, who was full of the newest cutting edge knowledge of the day began enthusiastically implementing this knowledge. He set out aggressively to change the way business was done with the latest theories of business management. This successful 100 year old establishment was “transformed” by new technology, new accounting practices and new sales tactics. As you may have guessed, within a couple of years the company failed. Employees lost their jobs, customers lost their trusted source of materials and the community suffered. All of this for one basic reason; the son had become too enthralled with the latter years of his education and had forgotten Business “101”. He had also forgotten Marketing “101” because he was influenced more by the instructors and college friends who surrounded him than the market the business had served. Does any of this sound familiar?
To journalist's I offer this advise; go back to Journalism “101”, Ethics “101”, Marketing “101”.
The Main Stream Media may be populated with very intelligent people. You may be respected within that closed community of media types and beltway thinkers. You may even win awards for your work. What good is all of that without the respect of the public?
There is a wisdom in the masses that you are missing and must tap in order to be a proper representative of the Fourth Estate. It is a far too important time in history for the media to misunderstand these responsibilities.