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Here it comes again.
This time, I was eating lunch, minding my own business and trying to complete the word jumble when I couldn’t help but overhear a nearby group of lunch buddies utter the words that make most journalists’ skin crawl: “The media is just so negative about everything.”
That’s right, everything. As if we never put anything in the paper or on TV about local kids winning football or baseball games, never list honor roll students or put pictures in of club meetings, golf tournaments or students receiving school work assistance from a legion of local volunteers.
We never run feature stories on local plays or singers or people who give back to their communities.
Guess what? MSNBC and Fox News might not publicize those things, but we do, and so do other community newspapers. But we still get the same flack: “Why all the negative news?”
I don’t really think anyone would prefer we ignore it when a high-ranking official they elected pleads guilty to fraud charges or when government employees whose salaries they pay neglect to comply with open records laws.
But with today’s “pick-your-own-news” climate, this pervasive attitude is not surprising.
Don’t like what the president said today? Don’t get mad; ignore it. Visit “wacky news from around the world.com” or something and read about a circus elephant who adopted a pet monkey.
Don’t like what your local newscaster says about the state of the economy? He’s just a biased liar who’s going negative to get ratings. Watch the so-and-so show on cable so your favorite “pundit” can tell you what you want to hear.
I know I sound bitter, but it’s disheartening when the career you’ve chosen is quickly turning into a circus because of the short attention spans of an entertainment-obsessed public and money-obsessed stockholders who own most of the national media.
I’m not saying I’m not partially to blame. I tend to like “wacky, weird” news and don’t want to be depressed by the latest tragedy. I’d like for someone to tell me everything’s fine the way it is.
But I know better. I know living in a state of blissful ignorance is not the way to go through life. If something of national importance has happened, even if it’s not going to cheer me up, I would like someone to tell me about it. I would like that person to tell me the facts.
Maybe I even want a journalist to analyze the situation in a truthful manner without hiding behind the “equal time to both sides” mantra by interviewing someone who is obviously lying his/her head off.
Here’s a secret: This job ain’t rocket science. It doesn’t pay as well as—well, you name it— but it’s important work. In the end, the only thing reporters have is their integrity.
If we sacrifice that in the name of pleasing everybody, we’re not worth anything.