The death of journalism in America

As my bio says, I’m just a newbie reporter. So perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to opine on the State of Journalism with only a few years of experience under my belt.

But something—okay, everything—bothered me when I read this post on Poynter.

“…But nothing journalists do will reverse the dark tides of popular cynicism. The wrecking balls destroying the credibility of the press cannot be stopped until we focus more attention on the credibility of those who are pulling the levers, including a public that has been conditioned, like rats in a Skinnerian dystopia, to hate us.”

The gist of Roy Peter Clark’s article, as I understand it anyway, is that the public has been systematically trained by Forces Unseen to despise the press and seek out supposed bias even when there is none. And instead of navel gazing, journalists should shine a mirror on the accusatory public and say, hey, maybe it’s you guys who are digging for something to complain about, searching for an agenda or bias when there is none.

I get what he’s saying. I understand his frustration. Many of the journalists chiming in on the Poynter forums can sympathize. Certainly anyone who has worked in journalism even for a day knows where he’s coming from.

There are always times when covering the news, especially political news, will attract screeching accusations of bias from partisans on every side. That’s just how it is. But let’s put that aside, as it’s not the central issue here. The problem is that journalism in America today is broken.

That sentiment runs deep in both the public and the press. We can’t brush that off as partisan politics working its spin. As a media consumer I’ve seen countless examples of the press just plain ol’ getting things wrong, more-than-too-many slanted or spun views (regurgitated talking points, often) passed off as fact.

And the public, more aware and media savvy than ever, is calling us out. Big surprise!

Of course we’re only human, and of course we make mistakes. But the fact is that bias is there, in all spheres of reporting, from all different angles. We can not and should never just brush off bias accusations—it’s exactly that kind of “we are The Media, we know better than you, let us tell you what’s best” attitude that got American journalism in the mess it’s in!

We’re journalists, aren’t we? We’re supposed to listen. We’re supposed to process information to find the nugget of truth. So we should never dismiss such a large amount of public dissent. It’s akin to plugging our ears, dancing around saying “la la la I can’t hear you~ bias doesn’t exist~ it’s all in your head!”

Of course, it’s always hardest to be honest with yourself—even when the truth is shouted at you from all directions. But journalism in America is running out of time. This industry is in trouble. If we don’t take serious, revolutionary action to acknowledge our faults, fix our newsrooms, and redeem ourselves in the eyes of the public, American journalism will die.

Categories : Journalism