In Defense of The Media

It is no secret that it’s a difficult time for newspapers. Media execs dream of being media barons, even though it’s clear those kind of profit margins are long gone. So they wring what they can from publications, laying off staff and cutting resources.

Advertising revenues are a major issue, but there are so many other problems as well, including that whiff of contempt from society.

Being a reporter has never been a prestigious position. Unless you make it to a television screen, journalism is not the kind of job that brings in the big bucks. And let’s face it – you often annoy people for a living. You call people during their most difficult moments and when they don’t answer, you knock on doors. It is not the ideal job for making friends or money.

But it is a very important job. Without local reporters, the most important stories in our region would have gone untold. The Air India bombing was covered internationally, but it was local newspaper reporters who stayed on it and broke stories years later – often risking their own safety to do so.

Which is why I cringe when I hear people talk about how terrible the media is. What media? Where? It’s not as if the media holds a conference call every Monday morning, to determine how they’ll manipulate the public this week. Many community newspapers can barely manage weekly meetings to go over who is working on what. They don’t have time to diabolically plan how to misinform the public or quash stories.

And really, most people who are in the industry are ethical people who want to shine a light on the truth. Not all – there are unethical journalists and editors, and there are companies that interfere with what stories go to print (or try to… many try, but luckily most editors are prepared for that).

If you find yourself blaming the media for society’s ills, ask yourself – who in the media? Is it that one columnist you can’t stand? Or that paper that always seems to publish people you disagree with? Irresponsible newspapers or blogs publishing salacious stories that aren’t substantiated?Absolutely – call them out. Name them by name. But make it clear to yourself and others when something is published that you don’t like versus something that is incorrect or misleading.

Get clear on what’s in a publication – a column is very different from a news story. Are you reading news, or an opinion piece? Being informed about the media should come before criticizing the media. Though believe me, we all know criticism can be warranted.

But celebrating the demise of newspapers, and hating on the media as a whole, leaves us all much more vulnerable to being manipulated by powerful people who don’t have our interests at heart. They like misinformation. They thrive on it.

Today, the editor of the Mexican newspaper Norte announced the paper would be shutting down because it could not keep its reporters (or editor) safe on the job. The Committee to Protect Journalists states that at least 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992, due to the work they do – as reported in The Guardian.

To put it in the simplest terms, the bad guys want the media to die. They will actually kill to stop it. They smile when you say, “newspapers are dying.” The death of newspapers and journalists is something they celebrate.

Help reporters fight to expose the lies and misdeeds of the powerful – whether they be drug lords, politicians, police, business leaders, or a local strata council gone astray. You can help by supporting them with your voice, your dollars, and your own efforts to inform yourself. Support those who speak to you and for you, and those with whom you disagree, but can at least admit they make a damn good argument.

Whatever you may think of particular outlets and journalists, good reporting is very, very necessary. We can’t let it die off due to an amorphous distrust of the media. There are so many places in the world that want the kind of free media we have. They desperately need it. It would be a disservice to them and to ourselves to take our media for granted.

Written by a former journalist who is married to a journalist, the daughter of a former journalist and editor, and who is admittedly fond of well-researched information.