Good old-fashioned news

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My love for newspapers began when I was about nine, specifically when my picture made the Mount Sterling Advocate as a fourth grader giving a book report to a high school class. Granted, that particular picture won extra points for me because I was wearing a werewolf Halloween mask, which was pertinent to the book I was reviewing. Looking back at it now, I bet my mother wasn’t too upset my concealed identity in the picture because all the hair on that latex mask was probably less unruly than my own head of hair at that particular age of my life.

My love for newspapers deepened immensely a year later after my family moved to Nebraska and my stepdad took over as editor of a weekly newspaper. When I think back about my younger days visiting that office, the smell of the inks and photo developer (we’re talking pre-digital cameras, here) still fill my nose. Years later, when I worked at—and later owned—that very same newspaper, I would often wonder if I really did still smell those pungent odors every day when I walked in the door, turned on the lights and declared us open, or if it was just the memories tricking my mind. 

Yes, I love newspapers and regularly read several of them, as well as a handful of good magazines and piles of books. Do I love the media overall? Not so much, and in all truthfulness, its future as it exists now will be interesting going forward.

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Does the American public as a whole read as much as it used to? Sadly, no. Shamefully, no. Is that any excuse for journalists to put forth less effort in doing the best they can at an all-too-often under-appreciated job? Absolutely not.

In fact, I believe the following two things wholeheartedly. One, quality journalism is more desperately needed around the world (let alone America) than ever before; and two, the supply of quality journalists in the field is getting so low it’s scary. I have heard and read the same stories that everyone else has about the public opinion of mainstream media sinking to record lows. 

Over the past three decades, most—if not all—of the schools of journalism in this country have become so ingrained with a political ideology, that they are damaging their reputations and enrollments. Subsequently, journalists that graduate into the professional world that awaits them beyond the cozy culture of academia, continue to cling to those beliefs to an overwhelming extent. This has, in turn, led us to a dangerously politicized mainstream media that doesn’t take kindly to opposing or alternative viewpoints from either the outside looking in or the inside looking out. 

So now, we sit here in this uncomfortable social paradigm where people are apprehensive about what they write or say in the public forum because so many media folk are just waiting to skewer and lampoon them if their words even slightly step out of the bounds that have been declared acceptable in “today’s society.” 

Forget “yesterday’s society.” We all know that people back then just didn’t know nothing before social media came along.

To me, that is the entire problem with the media in this country in a nutshell, and it is the root of what has blossomed into a massive black eye on what was once an esteemed profession. We have far too many media personnel who have set out on a crusade to be referees in society, blowing whistles and throwing flags on the field every time somebody commits an “illegal play”, such as saying something that doesn’t jive with the reporter’s viewpoint regardless of, or in spite of, intent or context. 

The actual referees in society do not wear striped shirts, they wear badges and black robes. The media’s duty is not to go making calls and rulings, but to be there with our cameras and notepads (alright, iPads) informing the public of the calls that have been made by those who are (hopefully) qualified to make them. 

Simply put, the media’s job is to keep the true referees honest in doing their jobs, and to inform their audience on what they should know so that they can make their own informed opinion, not trying to convince their audience how they should think or how they should feel about events transpiring.

For example, if I write even one article that glaringly shows my personal preference for one political candidate over another in a race, will you the reader take seriously any ‘fair’ reporting I conduct of said race? Probably not, and you shouldn’t.

When members of the media realize this and accept it, then they will stop seeing unflattering polls about the public’s trust in the American journalism, and stop having to hear this whole “fake news” rigamarole. Fake news has always existed (I’m looking at you, periodicals found in supermarket check-out lanes), but it is getting harder to discern it from the real stuff due to the bias and editorial “coloring” that runs so rampant.

Quality news media outlets have never lost their place or their validity, it’s just that journalism has lost its identity and purpose. Today, we are being reminded of that in a big way by the public, who is turning more to social media and various online sources for their news, much of which is illegitimate or simply editorial commentary from the vantage point of one small window.

But in all fairness and honesty, that is what a lot of mainstream news has been relegated to as well. Compare the most recent issue of Time or Newsweek to an issue forty years ago and browse through the content. Or reflect back to the months leading up to the last ten presidential elections. Or look at the viewership ratings of the national news programs on the broadcast television stations compared to the programs of news commentators on cable, who so many in the country watch religiously.

As for this week’s Jessamine Journal, we have a brand new Farmers’ Market firing up next month where we can purchase some locally-grown fresh food that will allow us to add nutrition to our dinner plates, a newly-accredited health department helping facilitate and promote numerous hiking and walking trails for exercise and Bruster’s serving the best ice cream in the county—as voted by our readers—that I can go eat too much of to offset my participation with the other two. Sigh.

Nothing fake about that news!