I wrote a blog on Journalism awhile back that focused on what the word means and should mean.
While I did mention how grateful I am to the free press, I think it’s time to be more than grateful for the concept. It’s time to start yelling that gratitude from the rooftops and to shine a light on those people and organizations that, in the name of the free press, are doing all they can to kill it.
Chuck Todd wrote an article in the Atlantic, It’s Time for the Press to Stop Complaining-And to Start Fighting Back. He does an excellent job of explaining what Fox News is actually all about. (Spoiler alert: it’s not to report sound news from the conservative perspective.)
I strongly suggest reading the full article; I, however, want to focus on a few points on the “Fighting Back” aspects of it.
“The idea that our work will speak for itself is hopelessly naive.”
Alas, with 8000 television stations and the internet, people will find the information sources that appeal to them most by validating their individual fears, playing on their prejudices, and airing their favorite cat videos. The work may, in fact, speak for itself, but if no one is listening….
How do you get the attention of a bunch of people who think the opposite of you and surround themselves with an environment that, to you, is absolutely vile? Honestly, I’m not sure.
[Side Note: I do think that our best hope is their children and public education. (That’s a different political conversation.) When kids must mingle with people other than them, they tend to pick up new ideas. And children that ask their parents questions that result in “We don’t practice what we preach” answers, hopefully, the children – if not the adults – will see the contradiction. And maybe, just maybe, some of those kids will grow into journalists. So, as the song says, “Teach your children well.”]
“Every day, we need to do our job, check our facts, strive to be transparent, and say what we’re seeing.”
This is true for EVERYONE, not just journalists. For too long the public has been turning a blind eye to whatever makes them uncomfortable. If it makes you uncomfortable, look harder. Then report on it. Social media makes every one of us a reporter.
“I’m not advocating for a more activist press in the political sense, but for a more aggressive one. That means having a lower tolerance for talking points, and a greater willingness to speak plain truths.”
It’s time to make the people who are doing things that make you uncomfortable equally uncomfortable. Ask them why until they give you an answer that is the truth. And then hold them to the consequences of that truth. And if you really want to get their goat, do it in a manner so respectful that they cannot complain about how you treated them.
“The challenge for viewers and readers is this: Ask yourself why someone is so determined to convince you not to believe your lying eyes.”
What someone else tells you can be suspect. What you see is different. There may be multiple explanations for why Jimmy is throwing his sister down the well, but you saw him throw his sister down the well. Believe your eyes and investigate. And if Jimmy tells you that he’s never been to the well, let alone throw something down it, call the cops.
And what, you might ask, does any of this have to do with the American Dream? Whenever things have gotten too far out of balance, it has been the press shining enough light on it and the people trying to fix it that have eventually brought the attention needed to level things out. If we do not take back journalism, if journalists do not report what they see, if we all continue to turn that blind eye, we surrender our freedoms and succumb to the world we were too uncomfortable to look at or talk about. And freedom is, in fact, the American Dream.