Today’s media makes me ashamed

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Today's media makes me ashamed

There’s no hole on Earth deep enough for me to hide from the shame my for­mer pro­fes­sion has brought me.

Other than a short stint in pub­lic rela­tions, I spent 34 years as a news­pa­per reporter and edi­tor. For the last 25 years of my career, I worked at a mid-​size daily, where we did an admirable job cov­er­ing the sto­ries of the day: the Space Shut­tle Chal­lenger explo­sion, the fall of Com­mu­nism, the start of the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s Balkan con­flicts and the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scandal.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we pub­lished our first edi­tion, as usual, at 9 a.m. By 3:30 p.m. — hours after our shift nor­mally ended — we put out our 11th and last edi­tion of the day. Know­ing that our read­ers depended on us for deeper cov­er­age than TV or the young Inter­net could sup­ply, we updated the paper con­stantly as devel­op­ments occurred. I was as gut-​punched as any other Amer­i­can after the tow­ers fell, but it was the proud­est day in my career.

That’s why I got into jour­nal­ism. Not to “edu­cate” read­ers. Not to push an angle. Not to weave a nar­ra­tive. My goal was to tell peo­ple what was hap­pen­ing in their com­mu­nity, their state, the coun­try and the world.

Unfor­tu­nately, I soon found out not all of my peers shared my intentions.

As far back as high school, my dream was to work for a news­pa­per. Well, I actu­ally dreamed of becom­ing a best­selling author, but I real­ized early that I’d never be a pro­duc­tive writer unless I faced a hard dead­line. And no dead­lines are more rigid than at a news­pa­per, where the con­se­quences are dras­tic if the presses don’t start on time.

I was already a jour­nal­ism major when the Water­gate break-​in occurred in 1972 and was work­ing at my home­town weekly when the bur­glary grew into the scan­dal that destroyed Richard Nixon’s pres­i­dency. Like most of my friends, I despised Nixon, but my loathing was based on rea­sons very dif­fer­ent than theirs.

The Left had been after Nixon since the late 1940s, when he led the charge to take down Alger Hiss, the Democ­rats’ favorite Soviet spy. (Read your his­tory, kids.) Mean­while I was dis­gusted by Nixon’s first term, when he expanded Lyn­don Johnson’s Great Soci­ety pro­gram instead of dis­man­tling it, and dis­mayed that the uproar over the stu­pid break-​in was tar­ring the con­ser­v­a­tive cause.

In any case, Water­gate was a turn­ing point in Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism. Reporters tra­di­tion­ally have been left of cen­ter, but now the media was cred­ited with toss­ing a pres­i­dent out of the White House. Such power! It’s no won­der left­ies of all stripes descended on jour­nal­ism schools like flies on a pile of manure.

Ever since, j-​schools have been churn­ing out a stream of Ahabs hop­ing to har­poon every Great White Repub­li­can Male Whale that crosses their paths. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with their Demo­c­rat allies, the main­stream media have devoted a good por­tion of their atten­tion to under­min­ing GOP leaders.

While it seemed like the media went off the rails when reporters, edi­tors and TV news per­son­al­i­ties became afflicted with Bush Derange­ment Syn­drome in W’s sec­ond term, we hadn’t seen or heard any­thing yet.

Now comes Don­ald Trump. On a scale of 1 to 10, the media have been oper­at­ing at 15 since the start of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign when it comes to Trump. Since his sur­prise vic­tory, reporters have trashed the prin­ci­ples they claim to hold dear in order in order to smear and pound a man they con­sider unfit for office.

All the so-​called “news” sto­ries based on unnamed sources, spec­u­la­tion and innu­endo embar­rass me to no end. Instead of destroy­ing Trump, the media are act­ing like sui­cide bombers. Their cred­i­bil­ity in the minds of half the nation’s peo­ple has been in shreds for years; now it’s on its way to the com­post heap.

I know you hate the media, but this is bad for every­one. With­out fair and hon­est report­ing, the pub­lic will wal­low in igno­rance and rely on rumors and half-​truths for infor­ma­tion. Even worse is the polit­i­cal polar­iza­tion that will only increase when con­ser­v­a­tives and pro­gres­sive depend on entirely sep­a­rate news sources.

It’s hard to believe — and I have my own doubts — but the media cri­sis could be cor­rected. I oper­ated in the belly of the beast for most of my career and emerged unscathed. As an edi­tor, I made sure unbal­anced and unfair sto­ries were fixed before they appeared in print.

And I wasn’t alone. Believe it or not, other con­ser­v­a­tives were in the news­room, and even lib­eral edi­tors would throw up their hands over arti­cles that tilted too far to the left. Then again, we weren’t the New York Times or Wash­ing­ton Post; we were just a bunch of sim­ple Mid­west­ern­ers serv­ing a working-​class read­er­ship. Maybe the elite oper­a­tions are beyond redemption.

In any case, if you still have a home­town paper, give it as much sup­port as you can. If it’s on the wrong track edi­to­ri­ally, gather some friends, meet with the boss and share your con­cerns. If you get a cold recep­tion, the paper might be a lost cause and deserve your wrath. But you might be pleas­antly surprised.

There’s no hole on Earth deep enough for me to hide from the shame my former profession has brought me.

Other than a short stint in public relations, I spent 34 years as a newspaper reporter and editor. For the last 25 years of my career, I worked at a mid-size daily, where we did an admirable job covering the stories of the day: the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the fall of Communism, the start of the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s Balkan conflicts and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we published our first edition, as usual, at 9 a.m. By 3:30 p.m. — hours after our shift normally ended — we put out our 11th and last edition of the day. Knowing that our readers depended on us for deeper coverage than TV or the young Internet could supply, we updated the paper constantly as developments occurred. I was as gut-punched as any other American after the towers fell, but it was the proudest day in my career.

That’s why I got into journalism. Not to “educate” readers. Not to push an angle. Not to weave a narrative. My goal was to tell people what was happening in their community, their state, the country and the world.

Unfortunately, I soon found out not all of my peers shared my intentions.

As far back as high school, my dream was to work for a newspaper. Well, I actually dreamed of becoming a bestselling author, but I realized early that I’d never be a productive writer unless I faced a hard deadline. And no deadlines are more rigid than at a newspaper, where the consequences are drastic if the presses don’t start on time.

I was already a journalism major when the Watergate break-in occurred in 1972 and was working at my hometown weekly when the burglary grew into the scandal that destroyed Richard Nixon’s presidency. Like most of my friends, I despised Nixon, but my loathing was based on reasons very different than theirs.

The Left had been after Nixon since the late 1940s, when he led the charge to take down Alger Hiss, the Democrats’ favorite Soviet spy. (Read your history, kids.) Meanwhile I was disgusted by Nixon’s first term, when he expanded Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program instead of dismantling it, and dismayed that the uproar over the stupid break-in was tarring the conservative cause.

In any case, Watergate was a turning point in American journalism. Reporters traditionally have been left of center, but now the media was credited with tossing a president out of the White House. Such power! It’s no wonder lefties of all stripes descended on journalism schools like flies on a pile of manure.

Ever since, j-schools have been churning out a stream of Ahabs hoping to harpoon every Great White Republican Male Whale that crosses their paths. In collaboration with their Democrat allies, the mainstream media have devoted a good portion of their attention to undermining GOP leaders.

While it seemed like the media went off the rails when reporters, editors and TV news personalities became afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome in W’s second term, we hadn’t seen or heard anything yet.

Now comes Donald Trump. On a scale of 1 to 10, the media have been operating at 15 since the start of the presidential campaign when it comes to Trump. Since his surprise victory, reporters have trashed the principles they claim to hold dear in order in order to smear and pound a man they consider unfit for office.

All the so-called “news” stories based on unnamed sources, speculation and innuendo embarrass me to no end. Instead of destroying Trump, the media are acting like suicide bombers. Their credibility in the minds of half the nation’s people has been in shreds for years; now it’s on its way to the compost heap.

I know you hate the media, but this is bad for everyone. Without fair and honest reporting, the public will wallow in ignorance and rely on rumors and half-truths for information. Even worse is the political polarization that will only increase when conservatives and progressive depend on entirely separate news sources.

It’s hard to believe — and I have my own doubts — but the media crisis could be corrected. I operated in the belly of the beast for most of my career and emerged unscathed. As an editor, I made sure unbalanced and unfair stories were fixed before they appeared in print.

And I wasn’t alone. Believe it or not, other conservatives were in the newsroom, and even liberal editors would throw up their hands over articles that tilted too far to the left. Then again, we weren’t the New York Times or Washington Post; we were just a bunch of simple Midwesterners serving a working-class readership. Maybe the elite operations are beyond redemption.

In any case, if you still have a hometown paper, give it as much support as you can. If it’s on the wrong track editorially, gather some friends, meet with the boss and share your concerns. If you get a cold reception, the paper might be a lost cause and deserve your wrath. But you might be pleasantly surprised.