Sunday, October 2, 2011

Journalism: A Weighty Responsibility

I never in a million years thought I'd end up as a journalist.

Hell, that's not even what I went to school for. My degree is in graphic design. Yet here I am, assistant editor for a small newspaper. I'm media now in a way I never thought I would be.

That can be a heady power to some. Being able to dictate somebody else's life with the click of the keyboard. But I see the responsibility it holds too.

In recent weeks I've had to cover some of the community campaigns for members of the school board. I interviewed all four of the candidates. All of them are really good people. In a way I am relieved  do not live in the town that they are running in because I'd hate to vote 'against' any of them. I can see where each of them have an energy that would lend itself well to that particular school board.

At the same time I can only hope that the articles I wrote about them portrayed them to be the wonderful people they are, so the people of that community can decide for themselves, and not think they are being swayed by the way I wrote about them. I have no favorites. Hell if it were up to me I'd put two more chairs in the board and have all four of them up there.

Even covering something so mundane, yet somewhat scary as a pigeon infestation on the roof of a high school, shutting down a couple buildings because of the concern for the dust from pigeon droppings getting into the HVAC unit... I don't want to make the school board look bad. Yet I had to hound these people to get the information out of them for an article. I can only hope the article was seen by the readers in a light that was in no way condemning of the way they handled it. Personally I thought they did the right thing, but I have to remain neutral. That is the duty of the press, after all.

I think that's the problem these days with the media. There is a lack of neutrality. It's an abuse of power, if you look at it. Media is a strong tool for swaying the minds of others. Look at advertising! Propaganda! Marketing! In those aspects, sure, it's a great thing to be biased towards the 'product' you are pushing, but news? No. It needs to remain neutral. Just the facts, ma'am. The journalist's opinions have no place in hard news. If you want your opinions aired, save it for the opinions column. Otherwise, just the facts.

I can think of one certain sports news 'journalist' who seems to have taken a dislike to a certain NASCAR driver. She has made it a point over the past couple months to write some articles about this driver that are on the verge of defamation. But given the network she writes for, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Still, what she writes is better suited to something like the National Enquirer, Weekly World News, or some other cage liner rag, not legitimate news.

In a perfect world, all journalists would be more concerned with their name being attached to something that is legitimate, well written and truthful, not sensationalist and scatalogical, just because it gets the Jerry Springer mindset's jaws a-flappin'.

Bah, I think too much.

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