Jay Maynard (jmaynard) wrote,
Jay Maynard

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Journalism and its practitioners

I've been accused a few times lately of hating all journalists and everything they stand for. That's not quite it.

I view the profession of journalism and those who practice it in much the same way as I do the profession of the law: while there are some good people involved in it, the profession itself has destroyed its own good image. There are too many in the field who believe that the highest good is served by getting the story, no matter who has to be hurt or destroyed in the process, to believe that the profession as a whole is as valuable to society as it might have been in the past. Put simply, there are too many would-be Woodward and Bernsteins out there, with no sense of ethics to balance the equation.

To make matters worse, there is no check on their abuses. Unlike the law, one need not acquire any specific training, nor pass any qualification tests, in order to be a journalist. One need merely be able to write, or look good on camera, enough to draw in an audience. The law has been skewed so far in favor of journalists that those significantly damaged by a crusader bent on destruction almost never get redress for their ruined lives. News media only publish corrections when forced to, or when it doesn't mean anything significant, and never with the same prominence as the first, erroneous or misleading, report. For that matter, news media organizations have managed to get a court to rule that they have no duty of accuracy in their reporting!

The journalists reading this will argue that it's all the fault of those nasty, eeeeevil big corporations that run the media. Perhaps, perhaps not, but the result is indistinguishable from the viewer's perspective: who cares if it's wrong because the writer had an axe to grind, or his corporate boss? The slanting is the same either way, and the end result is the same: the viewer is misled by the information provider.

Once upon a time, the media had a passion for getting things right, top to bottom, no matter where it may lead. If it still did, the profession as a whole would be due some respect. As things stand now, however, all it's earned is contempt, just as has the law. While there are good people working in both, the profession as a whole has a stain that will be extremely hard to eradicate.

Tom Clancy expressed it perfectly, in Executive Orders:

"Why should I trust you?" Laurence Zimmer demanded. "You're reporters." That remark broke through Plumber's demeanor hard and sharp enough to cause physical pain. Had his profession sunk as low as that?

Yes, indeed, it has. Until the profession of journalism realizes it's not nearly as well thought of in the public mind as it thinks of itself, it won't get any better. The days of Edward R. Murrow are long, long gone, probably never to return.

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