There was a recent discussion that I had had with a young man here at the college. Normally, speaking about one’s self in a professional way with a newspaper or media outlet is not generally acceptable, but in this case, there really was no other way to do this. This young man had the belief that the college newspaper here at UAA was nothing more than junk. His contention was that it was a joke, not worthy of even the slightest consideration other than the articles that are written by me. This man didn’t seem to realize what he had said, and how horrible a thing that it is to say until it was said.
There is a contention among the politically motivated in this country on both the left and the right that the media’s job is to do something other than what it is doing. People seem to believe that the media’s job is to report dark secrets, expose corruption, keep everybody accountable, and never let anything that they care about go unreported. The media’s job, the new’s job, is not that. The job of people in the news is to report on things of consequence. That is really all it is. It is to report on things that matter in the real world.
“You know, when was the last time you turned on the news and you saw a story about how there were no massive fires in your town that day? Or how there weren’t any horrific car accidents, or rapes, or murders, or how- that nobody was killed in Iraq today? I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume, never really happened,” said Glenn Beck on his syndicated (and ending at the end of the year) talk show on the hopelessly biased network Fox News. This line of thought was absolutely foolish in every single regard. And the sad fact is that Fox News has brought up and issue that the aforementioned young man put into perspective- the fact that there is no real respect for the media these days.
It isn’t exactly a mystery that most people believe that the media is biased these day. Even the great zions of straight reporting, like the BBC, NPR, PBS, etc. are considered biased. Of course, since they are in favor of an open discussion and exchange of ideas and examining both sides, people generally tend to believe that they have a liberal bias. Another false assumption in this country is the idea that there is a liberal media in the same way that there is a conservative media. There isn’t. But people believe that it is. People believe that there is a hardcore effort to either sway people one direction or the other. But that isn’t the case.
The fact is is that most reporters and most news organizations that aren’t on the major networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox) are not biased. In fact, there are codes of ethics that are pretty clear about what a news organization is supposed to be. Of course, say that to a typical American, and they won’t believe you. That’s how it goes in this country. It is people like the student mentioned at the top who are responsible for this belief that there is bias. People like him are what is wrong with this country.
Left or right, the problem in this country is that everybody is trying to be a pariah for a cause. And we have networks who cater to this image. There are certain liberal pundits who are just as bad at tarnishing the image of fair and balanced (the real kind) news. Every time that Ed Schultz is on television, I have a deep feeling of revulsion go through me when I listen to his clearly biased form of talking about political news.
But then there are people like Rachel Maddow, who is dedicated to seeking the truth. She has an obsession with facts that shows in her reporting. She doesn’t miss details, and doesn’t let the fact that she has a bias influence how she looks into something. She is one of those reporters that is in line with how Bill Moyer, my favorite journalist, said a reporter should be- having a bias, but is open about it, and still seeks the truth.
The great reporters throughout history have all had bias. True objective reporting is a myth. Personal bias will influence what you do in one form or another if you get into the job of reporting for a news organization. However, it is when you are able to work with your own bias, and are able to create something of substance, that you are making your job worthwhile.
And that is where it comes back to what was said at the top. The job of the news isn’t to expose dark secrets, or corruption. The job of the news is to talk about events. Things of consequence that happen in our world. And people who believe that the job of the news is to report on the dark going-ons, and to act as a hammer of justice, don’t realize that there is more to this world than politics. There are a lot of things that happen, and it is the job of the media to look at all aspects of this world.
And to this young man- I take great offense to what you said. The young man mentioned that the only reason that he read the paper The Northern Light is simply because I write for it. I mean this in the most sincere way when I ask him to stop reading the newspaper if that is all he reads it for. Those who work for this paper work very hard. We are all volunteers who are donating our time to this job. We don’t have the biggest newspaper in the world, and our readership is very small. However, that is not what matters. What matters is the fact that we are trying. We are doing our best. And when we hear that somebody thinks that our paper is a joke, I honestly don’t want people who think that way to read my articles and to tell me that that is all they think the paper is worth. I don’t want that kind of burden on my shoulders.
This paper means something to those who write for it. We work hard. If people think it is a joke, I would appreciate it if you kept that to yourself.