Shooting the Messenger

media-spoonfeeding-cartoon

I work for “the media”.
Obviously that must mean I lean left and watch MSNBC religiously, if I believed in religion.

In reality, I prefer to watch and read content from CNN and the BBC, and that’s after my family and I attend church each Sunday.

I like to tell people I’m an “extreme moderate”.

What irritates me in my line of work is how easy it is for people to form opinions about us when they consume information that they disagree with. I see this most often with politically based content and decisions. Basically, I mean the big stories people talk about during the day.

I’ve heard and read it all:

  • “Your news station must be told by the President what you can run.” (Never spoken to him or the Administration.)
  • “Why do you always say bad things about so and so?” (Well, what are they doing to have bad things reported about them?)
  • “You’re just trying to make the story fit your agenda!” (If you know what our agenda is, please let me know because I sure don’t.)
  • “You already wrote the story before getting your facts!” (Sure, because we must sit around all day planning on where to eat lunch and those pesky facts may get in the way of eating sushi.)

…and so on and so forth. I think you get the idea.

I’m not saying we don’t make mistakes. What I am trying to say is that overall we’re usually accurate, or at least accurate in that we quoted our source correctly. We can’t promise you’ll like the source or that the source we spoke with was correct.

Here are some points I’d like to make:

  1. We’re trying to be objective. You should be concerned if we’re not being objective. It falls in line with the phrase, “Be wary of one hand clapping.” It means, for every argument, there is going to be a counter argument. New landfill being built? There are going to be people for it and people against it. We do our best to find a representative from each side. We can’t help it if the source is weak in their explanation. We can’t always choose who we’re talking too.
  2. What is the truth? The truth is sometimes subjective. Is our source lying? Possibly. We do our best to look for inconsistencies, but we can’t promise someone is always telling us the truth.
  3. Please don’t shoot the messengers. I’m sorry a new law was passed that you don’t like. I’m sorry your candidate didn’t win. Don’t hate us. Take it up with them.
  4. Do you want us to lie to you to make you feel better? We can, but we wouldn’t be doing our jobs. Changes, good or bad, happen in our world. We’re not going to withhold it because we think it’s going to upset the public. This comes from the argument that we are somehow finding fringe stories to report. Ignoring something that is happening in our world is similar to the story of the “Emperor’s new clothes”.
  5. There are bad things that happen in our world, we have families too. We feel and hurt the same as you. Please don’t think we’re heartless, especially when we report on bad news.

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t said much about national media. Overall, I believe the majority of the networks really are working to be objective and truthful, but in a day where ratings and page views dictate how much they’ll profit; I do fear some outlets are pandering to their demographics instead of looking out for the public. I don’t mean so much the everyday news reports like “Pen Pal Stabs Pal with Pen”, or “The Dow is at its Highest Since 2005″. Usually those reports are going to be quoting directly from sources.

What I’m referring to are any of the cable news “talk shows” where they use a panel of “experts” to weigh in on a subject they’ve barely had to time to research, but are asked an opinion and they give it any way. Those are the shows I’m talking about. Pick a network; any network like: CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. They all do it. They’re after ratings. “What can we say that will get the biggest reaction from our key demographic?” I don’t like those shows and I think they’re ruining journalism and giving us a bad name.

Finally, is there some form of bias in the media? We’ve never had a big meeting to discuss our “agenda”. I’m not going to say there aren’t Producers or Editors who haven’t tried to slip an opinion in their content. You tend to see this in larger markets for much of the same reason the national cable networks do it. Do we jump the gun and get information wrong? Sometimes. Do we misquote or misunderstand? Sometimes, but good reporters work to be better.

At the end of the day when we’ve sign-off from the late night news and published our latest report online, we like to think we’ve informed the public of information that is important to them. We like to think we’ve done our best. There is always room for improvement, but please don’t form the opinion we’re trying to shape the world into some dystopian future. We’re merely reporting the news.

Thoughts?

-Thomas
thomas@thomasmiller.me