The thing that has happened to journalism also happened to the professional driving profession. Since before I was born, limousine and cab drivers were as likely to be moonlighting college students, blue-collar “second-jobbers,” or immigrants, and mostly part-time employees. In the late 70’s/early 80’s a popular television situation comedy, called Taxi, offered viewers an entire taxi company of part-time drivers. All but one of them said, “I am really a medical student,” or some other more important-sounding journeyman, in order to not admit to themselves that they were taxi drivers. Today, this profession has advanced to a new phase, with Uber drivers available to pick us up in their personal cars.
Back to journalists: According to their creed, they are supposed to tell us the truth. Their ideal is to get at and report the truth within a story. They can expect to face some personal risk. These risks include a physical risk to the themselves, a financial risk for their company, and a risk to their and their news company’s good name. If they tell us a lie, a half truth, or if they do not investigate their story properly, they tarnish their profession. So, if they do their job properly, they give us undeniable facts, crafted into a believable and interesting story. Their news product may include film, photographs, and interviews with witnesses, victims, politicians, good and bad people.
The thing that works against them, if they are employed by a news company, is the for profit system. For profit news organizations used to stand on the sterling content of their product, the creed-based truthful and interesting news itself. Now, we don’t pay a news company directly for their product (there is some exception to that theory for newspapers and news magazines). We pay our cable broadcast company to see news on television that was provided by a news company. The cable company pays the broadcasting network a portion of what we, the customers, pay them. Now, the news has become part of television entertainment. The broadcast networks also receive much money from commercial product manufacturers and marketers. They get that money in exchange for bounding the news broadcast with commercial advertisements.
So, today, when you see or read the journalist’s handiwork, do you see truth? Is the news story compelling? Is the story artfully told? Does the story sing in your ears, and tease your mind with thought? Do you talk to your family and friends about the story? Don’t think for a moment that the news companies are unbiased. Especially, the major news companies and the networks that carry news products are paid handsomely to be politically biased. It is not lost on those who run political organizations that many people who see or hear news, cannot discern truth. They simply believe and internalize what they are told by a journalist.
If you have read some of my earlier articles, you know that I believe that it is important for us, as citizens, to communicate with our elected politicians. I feel the same way about communicating with journalists. You can contact your local journalist to offer praise when you see or read their product and it sings out to you that the journalist has followed his or her creed. You can also admonish a journalist who falls short. Tell the journalist that you are now aware, and wary of their bias, and even their credibility. Remember, they as individuals set the bar high or low for professional journalism. Who enforces the quality of that profession’s work if not us, the citizens, who are their customers? If we, as a society, tolerate untruthful or biased news, then we help journalists to tarnish their profession.