It's fiction, yes, but in that fictional journalism fantasy world lives a journalist who through some major blunders starts speaking truth to power and to stupid.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the show: “I’m too old to be governed by fear of dumb people,” said Charlie Skinner, president of the fictional news division.
Some things have been weighing on my lately and honestly, truthfully, making me rageful.
I'm a reporter. Nothing I write will make everyone happy. That's not my job. My job is to gather facts and put them in context to help people make sense of their world, vote, etc.
In my work, I've conditioned myself to use as few adjectives as possible. It's not my place to insert my opinions, my thoughts, my perspectives and biases into news stories. These are the kinds of things I worry about constantly. It's why I struggle so much with writing about what I really think about a lot of things here on the blog. It's like a tectonic shift has to happen in my brain.
It's not just a job, it's a duty and a responsibility to readers to give them information they need and write as close a version to the truth as I possibly can. There's no doubt that my industry is struggling and some reporters don't hold themselves to same high standards, but here's the thing. People write insanely awful comments on news stories. About reporters. About news organizations. About people in the stories.
As Americans, they're entitled to their opinions and have the right to voice them, but I would ask that you, the news consumer, try a little harder. I'm a journalist. That comes with being hung up on, yelled at, called a racist, liberal, commie, idiot who can't spell and worse. Is it awful that people treat other people like that? Yes. Did I know that's what I was signing up for? Mostly. And you learn to deal with it. You focus on the calls, letters and comments from older ladies in the community who thank you for telling them about events they can no longer get to. From the families who thank you for how you handled stories about their service member killed in combat. From the woman active in many community groups who thanks you for making sense of some complicated issues. Those calls are few and far between, but those are the people I work for and try to keep in mind when I'm losing my mind in the weeds of the nonsense.
You kids out there in blogger land tend to be more thoughtful commenters and a more pleasant lot, but for the sake of educating the masses, let's review.
+ Read the story before demanding information on a news organizations Facebook page. Not just the headline. Really, reading is the key here folks. We work hard to get the information for you, but we put it in the newspaper. Journalists are not your personal Magic 8 Ball.
+ Before chewing out a news reporter for not writing about something, do just a cursory search of the site to ensure they haven't already written about it 16 times in the last month. If we consistently fail to report things, go ahead, chew us out.
+ Please, for the love of all things, learn the very basics of government. I'm not saying you need to understand federal, state and local budgets and all the complicated systems involved, because it really can be hard, but if you think a president can overturn a Supreme Court decision, we have a problem.
+ Read stories from multiple news organizations. Develop some media literacy. That requires not accepting everything a single news source tells you is absolute. Read them all, learn to spot stories that include inflammatory quotes from people who aren't credible. Read a lot. And read critically. I don't mean reading and then sending a nasty-gram to a reporter. I mean reading and actually thinking about what you're reading.
+ If you have a question, ask it. By all means, if something in my story didn't make sense to you, call me to talk about it. But don't yell. Don't call me names. I am perfectly happy to have a civil conversation with you about the information I have gathered and if I've missed something, I'll certainly look into it.
+ Stop saying the media has gone to hell and can't do news when all you read are awful crime stories and celebrity gossip. We know what you're reading. We know what you click on. You, media consumer, looked for entertainment and got it. Demand high quality news and when we give it to you, read it.
Again, I watched the entire first season of The Newsroom in about three days and have made long speeches to M about the state of the media and our society that seems to have become okay with not being informed. As a journalist, I want to demand more of us, I do. Trust me, I am tougher on my industry than most non-journalists could be. And I actively work to improve it. I'm on boards and work with student journalists to help those coming after me to be better. But I need help from news users.
It stresses me out in ways I cannot even put into words that so many media consumers are so entrenched in their political cocoons and apparently too good to actually read the news before harassing us with the same questions about the same restaurant that we told you was coming to town, we're sorry it's not built yet, we're not in construction.
Have your political opinions, but can we please, please, please raise the level of informed debate? Can we have adult conversations about things affecting our communities, our nation, the world?
How do you consume news? Do you think quality news is still valuable today?