Sunday, February 5, 2017

A call of conscience journalism

When the American media is attacked by its country's own President as being "dishonest" and "scum -- and the American public eats it up, it's extremely disconcerting.
Media trustworthiness, according to a Pew study conducted as recently as September 2016, showing at only 32 percent (and that number has been steadily declining since the late 1970s), it's high time for journalism to take a long, hard look at itself.
Has it been providing the public with truth and accuracy? Yes. Has it been providing the public with news it needs? No.
Why do I write this? Because it seems, in an age of declining revenues, publishers want more eyes directed toward its websites. That enhances advertising representatives' ability to sell advertising space (by pointing to viewership numbers on a chart, Google Analytics, or any other measurement instrument). When those numbers go up, the drive to produce more content goes up, even if that content isn't what we'd call "newsworthy."
From my experience in the professional media, content that receives the most "eyeballs" are police reports, cops and courts stories, and pets. Analytics show this is what people are reading, therefore the push to produce content that reflects what the public wants also increases.
Something is seriously wrong when the top news story is actress Lindsay Lohan "allegedly" converting to Islam.
In reflect on this week's readings in my master's class at Kent State University (Social Role of the Media), the piece by Poynter titled "A Call for Conscience Journalism," talks about the current dark days of the Fourth Estate in which people trust their mechanic more than the media; refuse to believe what they watch on the television news or the newspaper, but listen wholeheartedly to the babble of talking heads - on TV and radio.
I really enjoyed the take by Edward R. Murrow, who challenged Joseph P. McCarthy and his claims in the 1950s during the so-called "Red Scare."
As Poynter writes, "Murrow's words to the nation seem more appropriate today than they did a half-century ago:
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. ... This is no time for men ... to keep silent. ... We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."
I agree that those words have never held more truth. They did in 1954 ... and they are equaly as powerfull in 2017.
Poynter writes that journalism cannot allow the public's fascination with celebrity news "overwhelm what is important. We need not feel for the public's pulse to determine what stories we should publish. And we must never give in to those trying to thwart our attempts to expose the truth."
Truth. Let's all give it a try.


  1. Love this post, Michael, and this really resonated for me: "Something is seriously wrong when the top news story is actress Lindsay Lohan ‘allegedly' converting to Islam.” Though I applaud a wider journalistic scope — the “good ‘ol days” may have had better gatekeepers, but those gatekeepers didn’t see a value in news pertaining to women and people of color — but I’m so concerned about the shift from information to entertainment and sensationalism. I wonder at a school level what we can do to get our students into the habit of reading our student news. They always click on the fun “whimsies” video, but few take the time to read some truly outstanding news and features pieces.

  2. Reading your post reminded me of the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sorry for the cliche, but despite, or maybe even because of, all the changes in the media landscape, truth has remained paramount.