Why I’m Ashamed to be a Journalist
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Contrast.
Among my various educational credentials, I have a journalism degree. I rarely tell anyone. Can you blame me?
I’d started college with a major in music and journalism, eventually switching around and adding English and marketing to the mix, and possibly even French at one time. But hey, I was on a four-year scholarship and I’d decided to pack in as much as I could. I’d spent my high school years with the role models on TV’s “Lou Grant,” a show about a small group of newspaper journalists with—GASP!—integrity and objectivity. When I went to college, just as CNN was launched and broadcast journalism was the new rock star career everybody wanted, journalism was not yet about slants and commentary and sensationalism. It was about the facts, all of them, whether we as journalists liked them or not.
In those days, a fledging TV reporter covered a local traffic accident with a weighty camera on her shoulder and captured footage of a bloody baby shoe in the grass. She told me she cut the zoom-in on the baby shoe because it was sensational and she wouldn’t want her grandma to see it and be upset. Nowadays, a bloody baby shoe would not only be examined up close for maximum impact, but it would be turned into a logo at the bottom of a 24-hour news screen to give the latest news on the “Bloody Baby Shoe Tragedy” with hourly updates.
There is no such thing as objectivity left in the news. It’s all about fear and condemnation—and inciting both.
I watch precious little TV anymore. I didn’t even know about Saddam’s execution until I heard it from a fellow blogger. And I’m generally a lot happier without the news and its sky-is-falling effects. Literally. I watched TV with the girls on Christmas Eve and was utterly dismayed by the upcoming TV show where top scientists would be asked to name their worst fears and what’s most likely going to take out our planet and which asteroids we really need to be worrying about (as if worrying about an asteroid is going to do us any good). But I hated the commercial for this new show—it was all about terrorizing people into watching. It used to be that fear and greed were the biggest draws a copywriter could depend on, and I guess it still is.
Online news sites are just as bad, but without the vocal inflections—unless you’re watching a video-cast. My biggest peeve over the past few days was news of a 67year-old woman giving birth. Okay, so? If she wanted the child, be happy for her. But no, let’s all fling judgment at her. How about those polls that say, “Would you want a mother 67 years older than you are?” Where are the polls that say, “Would you want Brittany Spears as a mother?” Or “Would you want a mother 15 years older than you?” Or “Would you want a mother who’s ?” Who cares? The implication, of course, is that a mother 67 years your senior won’t be around to watch you grow up and give her grandchildren. Giving birth doesn’t come with the guarantee of getting to hang around, and there are plenty enough cases of mothers dying young. Why spoil the joy with the focus on age and time? And if a woman wants to give birth and can at that age, then celebrate it, people! I don’t know that I’d be willing to do it again at *67* but with the right man, I’d be willing to have another family if I were so blessed. I wouldn’t be working two jobs this time, though!
So I’ve turned off the TV and clicked out of the online news sites. I’ve adjusted my feed aggregator so I can read the stories that will give me the news I’m interested in without a lot of opinion thrown in, and I’ve subscribed to all the podcasts that fill in the blanks for me with news about technology, science, history, archeology, marketing, spirituality, etc. I don’t want to be cut off from the world, and I’d been getting more that way over the past year, so instead I’m using the technology we have to filter out the fear and judgment in the modern media.