So the hashtag #RIPJournalism has been trending on the interwebs in the past few days. There are two sides to this story.
This hashtag should have been trending years ago before Facebook and Twitter were even a thing. This hashtag should have been trending right about the time I entered the business. I entered the business at one of the first publicly outed duopoly TV stations in the country. The reason I say publicly outed is because corporations were playing shell games years before then to skirt around the FCC rules about monopolies in local media coverage. But this one station (well, two stations) were among the first to start marketing themselves under the same moniker. They made claims of have double everything to give better coverage. However, then you take a look at the business side of things. Those corporations were cutting staff and slashing salaries so that the books showed a profit. Why? Because it is an art to run a local TV station correctly. If you don’t run it correctly, then it is an expensive venture.
To make this simple, they started running their stations like business divisions instead of TV stations.
About the same time, large network news operations really started to ramp up what most Americans believe to be biased coverage. The broadcast networks did not seem to do this much until the advent of cable news networks. However, it often seems like coverage decisions will be made only for ratings. They feed in to the same insatiable “need” to know everything that is going on that has been made stronger by “reality” shows and social media. Now days, in addition to general approaches of ignoring news that would not see the most ratings and the most reaction, now many organizations can be identified as leaning left or leaning right. They aren’t telling it like it is though. They are just using that as yet another ratings ploy. TV is only about money now, no matter how the content is classified.
To add to this, some of the best journalists out there regularly were newspaper reporters.
Now, we live and die by the breath of anyone who posts something online. They may or may not be a reputable source. But the advent of Web 2.0 made print journalism no longer a viable business to keep a float. Once again, it is about the money. Show me the money!!!
America mourns and laments that true journalism is dead, but yet we are the biggest nation of voyeurs that reward the most scintillating content with yet another ratings point, which means yet another dollar.
I mourn that there is no longer a cause greater than money. If you are a religious person and believe in what is said in the Bible, money is not the problem. The love of money is the root of all evil.
In spite of journalism being more of a business than a cause, there is still a deep desire to have a trusted voice in every community. Adults have their favorite TV anchors to watch for one reason or another. Kids idolize weather forecasters and reporters and want to be just like them. Local news organizations are anchor institutions that live and die by telling the news and telling stories about the communities that they call home. I have known some of the best story tellers in the world. I have known some of the best journalists in the world. Most of them work for a community, a region, a town. They know that journalism was and still can be about telling a story. If there is a side to take, they let those that consume their work take that side. They just tell all sides.
I know some journalists that rode out Hurricane Matthew just recently. They had fun and got a thrill out of being able to bring the coverage of everything that was/is going on. They found it important to let everyone know what was happening, so that the community stayed informed. Yet, they still worried about their homes and their families because they got hit by the storm as well.
The business of journalism needs to learn many, many lessons from those that practice the art of journalism. Journalism is not dead if you know where to find it.