I think the mainstream media is making us all into journalists.
Ernest Hemingway famously said, “To be a good reporter you need a built-in shockproof crap detector.”
When I started covering the fast-paced futures markets for Reuters News Service back in the 1960’s that quote resounded in my head on a daily basis. I started my journalistic career on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange talking to traders about what was happening in the futures markets. In those days, the biggest markets were pork bellies, live cattle, live hogs and shell egg futures. The financial instruments futures hadn’t been created yet.
My qualifications included a degree in finance and several years experience magazine writing and editing.
Reporting markets, you had to remember that everyone you talked to had an agenda (and likely a position in the market). So, I always assumed that the person speaking to me had an axe to grind. When someone told me something bullish on the market, I would search around for a contact likely to tell me the ‘other side.’ That way, my market comments remained balanced and useful to traders.
That was my initiation into journalism. Daily fact finding, chasing down rumors. Working to feed fresh information into the marketplace that traders could use to make intelligent decisions. One of the exciting aspects of this reporting was that our subscribers read our stories avidly and with practiced eyes. If we reported anything that rang the least bit inaccurate or careless that might move the market against them, our phones lit up with complaints and people threatened to cancel their subscriptions. So, we were scrupulously accurate about fact checking and reporting.
I wanted to mention the above because for some time now, I have been amazed at what passes for journalism these days from mainstream media. As a consumer of news, I am daily bombarded by tidbits of information that are then spun into dialectics about people and events. It seems that every ‘journalist’ has an agenda and feels that his/her job is to promote that agenda on a daily basis. The truth isn’t the aim. The truth or some small aspect of it is grist for the mill that they can use to further convince us of their position.
I am not going to load this up with examples because I am sure that you have plenty of your own from your daily experience as a news consumer.
Okay, one example. You don’t have to recall too far back to remember the furore over DACA – the legislation that was created to protect young children of undocumented aliens. How can we separate innocent children from their parents? Never mind that the parents had committed a crime by bringing them here. Any legal citizen who commits a crime and is incarcerated for it is separated from his/her children.
A week ago in New Mexico a missing child died and the compound there was shown to be housing children in horribly unhealthy conditions while training them to go to American schools and shoot people there. Incredibly, through mismanagement, the prosecutor there failed to keep the perpetrators jailed and they were set free. Virtually nothing in the mainstream media. It doesn’t fit the narrative of a brutal, uncaring chief executive and heartless Republicans, so the story dies a quiet death.
The irony is that now I find myself reading and watching the news with my built-in shockproof crap detector on full alert. The media has morphed us all into reporters because we can’t trust them to report the news to us responsibly. It used to be – all the news that fits we print. Now, it’s all the news that fits our narrative we force down your throats.