Monday, November 1, 2010

Rally to Completely Bash the Media

Last weekend was the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or) Fear in Washington D.C. led by John Stewart (the sanity part) and Steven Colbert (the fear part.) While Stewart did make fun of society in general, most of his ire was directed at the media. As a member of the media, it made me want to hang my head, not in shame, but in frustration.

Every profession has to have its wackjobs, weirdos, and complete morons, right? So why pick on the media? Well, mostly because not every profession has the power to sway public opinion like journalism. So when we get a nut job among our ranks it does a lot more damage. But I don't think that journalism's faults can be attributed solely to people who have lost their marbles (you know, those "Fair and Balanced" people.) Like most things in America, journalism is a competition. The best story wins, whether or not it has been fact checked and verified. The nature of the field itself, works against those in it.

The struggle to attract viewers or readers has a lot to do with why the media sensationalizes stories. If John Stewart wants the media to shape up and do a better job of reporting honestly and clearly, it would be good if he could provide an audience that has a longer attention span than a two year old. We're all guilty of it, if a story isn't flashy or scandalous we aren't going to read it. So how are journalists supposed to find a balance between going over the top and having readers, or being true to the impact of the story and risk having no one give a damn? 

I appreciate the message of the Rally to Restore Sanity, I wish that journalism wasn't so over the top sometimes, but what are we supposed to do? No one wants to pay us to put in the kind of hours and dedication it takes to chase down a compelling story. Unless I want to live in a box under a bridge I'm going to need to find a way to turn out stories like a machine. Being a hamster in a wheel isn't a good way to inspire great reporting. 

There are a lot of young and seasoned journalists out there that can do great journalism. I'd like to know what John Stewart's answer to the problems in the journalism industry would be. Its all well and good to indite the media, but he didn't offer any solutions on how to fix things. You don't have to be special to step up to a microphone and start pointing fingers. Finding a way to support innovation and help cultivate ideas about how to improve an entire industry, now that would be helpful.

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