The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Standing Up for Journalists and "Real News"

What is journalism? 
“The purpose of journalism,” write Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism, “is not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ.” Rather, “the principles and purpose of journalism are defined by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people.”
News is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside. Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed.
The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments." For more, see:
So journalism, or "real news" is designed to keep citizens informed on a wide variety of issues. Why should we be informed? Because this is not a "so-called" democracy, but the real thing. Only an informed citizenry can make smart decisions on the direction that democracy goes. But, when people decide they'd rather eat junk food than healthy food, and turn away from the real deal and instead pig out on cable commentators and one wing or the other's yellow journalism (i.e. obsessed with sensationalism and crude exaggeration)  or outright propaganda (information, especially of a biased or misleading nature [read "lies" here], used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. [thanks Google Definitions]) then democracy lurches down crazy side streets into dangerous territory where the real terrorists of the world come forth to play on the public stage: the demagogues, the hate groups, the ultra-nationalists, the fascists, and all the other underbelly bullying types who feel their misinformed, uninformed, rage and fear filled view of the world had come to the fore. 

One more definition, bear with me here, we are almost done. We've seen what journalism is, but what is a journalist, what does he or she do? Here's a short definition from The American Press Institute: The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds. Again, for more, see:

Our current president, the 45th U.S. president, has declared war on journalism and journalists. I won't bother to quote much of what Mr. Trump has said, because I don't want to give him yet another platform. Here's something to get the ball rolling: "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?" And press secretary Sean Spicer used his first White House press conference [press rant really] to attack the media with lies about how reporters maliciously underestimated the size of the crowd's at Trump's inauguration. What is it with Mr. T. and size??? 

Back in 2015, during the heady campaign days, Mr. Trump had this to say about journalists, which was of course reported by journalsits: "I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true." 

Alright, enough data, enough facts, and now let me roll up my sleeves for a minute and tell you what I really think. I grew up with a journalist. I know journalists. The best of them live out the definitions above. They are committed to digging out the truth, wherever it takes them. Some die for their profession, others lose their spouses to the long hours and many trips to far flung locations, they put in ridiculous hours (the journalist I know best was up for 36 hours straight covering Apollo 13), and they get sent to places most rational human beings would stay away from (driving into a hurricane to report, heading toward a firefight like a soldier but not as well armed or trained, or attending a press conference with Sean Spicer). 

D.T. declares he hates journalists, finds them terribly dishonest (funny from the guy who lies daily and doesn't appear to care about getting caught), and is very angry when they don't treat him in ways he thinks of as "nice" or "fair." I'm guessing Mr. T has a real hatred for what true journalism is all about and what real, committed journalists do because they slow him down, expose his inadequacies ... which appear to be legion at this point in his presidency ..., and won't let him spin reality in directions that best suit him. Hence the need to give Breitbart, the neo-Nazi, ultra-nationalist yellow rag, a private interview with the press secretary. His hatred has spilled over into his most devoted followers who will go far beyond Mr. T's purported aversion to killing journalists who don't see reality his way and do send death threats by every means available to the offenders. This is not how democracy works, ever

Mr. T., let me give you a little advice from a journalist about what happens when you make a mistake and you are asking yourself if you should cover it up. The journalist I know would ask you, what do you want, a pint of trouble now or a gallon later? The pint of trouble is what you get if you're up front with the real journalists, admit your mistake, declare what you'll do to fix it, and everybody then moves on. If instead you choose to lie to the real journalists, expect a gallon of trouble later when the really committed journalists uncover and report the truth you tried to hide, the truth they are committed to deliver to the public to keep us all informed. I believe in the news now you see some of those issues beginning to come to light. You are quite fortunate, Mr. T., that you have been able to stack the deck in the House and Senate so much in your favor that it will be very difficult for that gallon of increasingly rancid milk to splash on you in any real effective way.

To all of you, dear readers, if you have stuck with me this long, support real journalists and real journalism. Determine to your own satisfaction using research tools readily at hand what are authentic news outlets and buy their products, read their news, become informed and inspired, and in that state be ready to act as real members of a real democracy, one whose members make informed decisions that are best for the vast majority, not some shambling zombie that once was a democracy that harms most and benefits only a few. 

I was going to wind up to a real rant here, but you know, I'll leave that to others who do it so very well. Are there bad journalists? You bet. I've been interviewed by great and awful journalists. Journalists are people too after all. Does journalism screw up from time to time? Yes indeed. After all, the major networks were lured by their own greed into giving Mr. T. an unprecedented (not unpresidented by the way) amount of free air time to the detriment of most citizens. Support the best of them, ignore the yellow ones, and steer far clear of the purported "news commentators" who give their most devoted fans nothing but red meat propaganda designed to stoke fear, hatred, and affirm a skewed point of view, an oftentimes dangerous point of view. Finally, find ways to push back against the most outrageous assertions of Mr. T. concerning journalists, the environment, our society, the world, etc. Of course, to do that, we'll all need to be well informed with real news. 

"Good night and good luck," as famed journalist Edward R. Murrow used to say. Mr. Murrow also stated, "We will not walk in fear, one of another." Be informed and fear-free. 

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