Writers Wednesday: A Media Call to Action

 

Freedom of the press has been attacked from all sides this week. By the public. By a glorified public relations rep. By the newly minted President of the United States of America.

I’m angry, and, like many others in my profession, I’m reeling both from the audacity and the vitriol. Make no mistake. Americans would not have the president they do today without the so-called “lying media” he’s doing his best to discredit. We kept his name and his messages at the forefront of conversation for months on end. We played right into his hands, and we helped put that person in that office.

Press freedom is writing freedom.

Collectively, we all did it. No, I haven’t been a beat reporter in years, but journalism is still my field. It is my heartbeat. These are my people. This is my world. And if we don’t all push back hard, now, it will be torn apart right in front of us.

Press freedom is writing freedom.

It’s intellectual freedom.

It’s dissenting freedom.

Where did we go wrong? Was it the campaign? No, it started much earlier than that.

When we turned to social media to find quick stories instead of going out and finding real people and issues on our beats, we alienated readers.

When we emphasized perceptions of fairness and equality of coverage time over facts, we invited the public to do the same.

When we began pandering to viewers with “viral video of the day” segments and harping ad nauseam about insignificant things somebody famous said, we cluttered the airwaves with meaningless chatter.

We fed the beast, all right. We stuffed it with as much cheap junk as we could possibly find. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s grown into a raging monster.

The only thing we can do to weaken it now is cut off its diet, and that requires a return to reporting basics

:

Is it true?
Is it impactful?
Is it relevant?
Is it prominent?
Is it timely?

It’s time to stop mindlessly parroting everything a famous person chooses to say online, time to stop jumping in with calls for the ax to fall every time someone misspeaks, time to stop rushing to publish “scoops” that aren’t.

It’s time to go outside.

It’s time to talk to human beings.

It’s time to point out when things aren’t adding up.

The president and his fellow politicians can yell all they want to on Twitter.

We don’t have to keep listening.

Kate

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