Friday, November 09, 2007

(In)validating a stereotype

Probably one of the most entertaining parts of writing for a newspaper, is getting the behind-the-scenes look at what journalists really think and do in their private lives.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I looked at the newspaper and wondered what kind of animal would spend his time putting together such a thing as a newspaper. My curiosity only grew with each passing year until one day, I decided I was going to find out.

Let me be clear: I have indeed discovered what kind of animal writes for a newspaper. We call them homo sapiens, or humans, to use the more colloquial term.

Now granted, they come in all forms (don’t we all), but still it is important to remember that the species that writes for the newspaper indeed has feelings, emotions, complex thought processes and problem solving skills just like the rest of humanity. Believe it or not, I’ve even seen a few journalists with a social life. Let’s be objective, though. What are some specific complaints against journalists?

They are:
  • Lazy
  • Biased
  • Arrogant
  • Callous... name a few. Ouch! That hurts.

Lazy? Yes, perhaps we are. We love to over-simplify. It’s in our job description -- the only way a newspaper survives is by keeping its writing as close to the average reading level as possible. Detail suffers, and, in the worst cases, inaccuracies occur.

Biased? Again, yes, reporters are biased. Everyone has their own reason for thinking this, and by now, it’s virtually cliche to say that journalism is biased. One must also consider the cost of no bias at all -- you might lose a lot of common ground with the biased public. Is it even possible to be unbiased?

What we need is a different goal. How about fairness? We can be respectful of the people we quote and recognize that even if we don’t agree with them, representing their view as accurately as possible is the fairest way to handle it.

Arrogant? Again, I must agree that this can be a problem. Absolute power corrupts absolutely -- so said Lord Acton. While I am reluctant (for obvious reasons) to call the power of the press absolute, the principle is worth remembering. Recognizing the job as a service to the community should not give us cause for arrogance, or some kind of unreasonable special status.

Callous? Perhaps. I know how much it gets my blood up when I see a news team put their deadline and desire to be first with the story ahead of the ethical concerns involved. It’s easy enough to rationalize to ourselves that we are doing this because “the public has a right to know.”

It’s true that we often do have to put the truth ahead of our feelings about it. This can be a gut-wrenching process, but that’s no excuse for sensational reporting. The truth is ugly enough without catering to our gossiping side.

As you will see by my responses to these complaints, journalists fail in these ways, not because they mutated into another kind of creature at some point in school, but rather because they are humans.

Just remember that we all commit the same sins and we all need the same grace no matter what our vocation is.
<< Home 1 Comments:
Blogger Rebekah said...

Hi. My exposure to real, live journalists consists of one very wonderful, gifted brother that just wrote this post. So far I'm loving them. :)

11:50 PM, November 14, 2007  

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