Here's Johnny - On 'The Media'
I'm increasingly vexed by sweeping statements folks make about "the media," a two-word phrase that often includes a third, middle word in the form of an unflattering and sometimes sacrilegious adjective. I would say that all sweeping statements are bull hockey, but that would itself be a sweeping statement. Still, as nearly all my adult life has been spent in "the media," I think I have some valid thoughts on the matter. 'Course, that will be up to Dear Readers to decide. First, "the media" is composed of many entities: newspapers, magazines, television and radio news organizations, talk show hosts, bloggers. Critics of "the media," are usually people who don't like what they've read, heard or seen, lump us all together, and that's inaccurate and unfair. Second, the material produced by "the media" can be divided into two areas: news and opinion. News should be gathered by a journalist whose mission is to seek and tell the truth. I can assure you that there is no giant conference call or mass email sent to all members of "the media" telling us what to cover and how to cover it. If there is, I've never received one. Consumers of news should ask themselves the eternal journalistic question: "Who says?" In other words, a well-composed news piece makes clear its sources of information, be they quotes or statistics, so that consumers can judge their validity for themselves. An opinion piece can be a column (like Here's Johnny) or an editorial or a letter to the editor. The writer is allowed to express his opinion, but should still make clear why he's come to his or her conclusions. Some newspapers and other media businesses offer regular editorials, but the good ones follow a golden rule: news and editorials shouldn't mix. Neither the New York Times editorial board nor Fox News management should try to prevent their reporters from seeking and telling the truth. Dear Readers may recall my rants about political candidates and others who blame "the media" for reporting their missteps. It's gotten so bad that in the just-concluded presidential campaign, journalists covering one of the candidates were routinely heckled, spit on, threatened and booed for - wait for it - reporting facts. My point - and I do have one - is not that I want to convince Dear Readers that I'm engaged in an honorable if not always particularly lucrative profession. Well, that's part of the point - we all like to believe we're doing some good in the world. My point is that this profession is under attack by economic and political forces and, dare I say, flat-out ignorance. Folks who only look for "news" that confirms their opinions fail themselves, their community and their country. I'm happy to discuss any story I write or any story written by someone else that a Dear Reader believes is unfair. However, I will insist that particulars be discussed and sweeping statements with phrases like "Everybody knows" be banned. I will step down from my soapbox after I share a beautiful piece written by Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor who spoke against Adolf Hitler and spent seven years in a concentration camp. First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me. As the song goes, "I'm proud to be an American" - but I'm also proud to be a journalist. Give it some thought, folks. As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 873-4131, ext. 13. P.S. Thanks to P.C. S. for her Veterans Day card and K.R. and her children for the brownies and cookies. I shared the latter and was very popular around The Sun for a day or two, even though folks here know I'm a member of "the media."