Fake news and me

One of my daughter’s colleagues recently asked me if I worked as a journalist.

“No,” I replied. “Neither am I a mass murderer.”

It wasn’t exactly like Peter denying Christ three times. But I am no longer proud of the job I did for more than 20 years and have taught students to do for nearly 25 years.

Although I have had a variety of difficulties with the mainstream media in recent years, I hadn’t jumped completely on the fake news bandwagon until the Ukrainian phone call and impeachment. The media in American have become so shrill–a partisan press without a purpose other than to attack Trump. That doesn’t apply to all reporters and editors, but I think it applies to a significant number, particularly among the media elite.

As a result, journalism has fallen on hard times in the eyes of the public. It’s been a long time since journalists have been held in high esteem, but many people looked to the news media to provide some insight into the issues of the day.

Every morning, I start my day by reading several websites, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. I’ll usually check CNN and Fox News and may listen to the radio talk shows for 30 minutes or so.

I don’t read many opinion pieces because I find the analysis wanting, particularly from DaTimes and DaPost. It seems like all they want to do launch a new screed against Donald Trump.

Over the past decade or so, I have been advocating a change in how news organizations go about their business. The old standards of fairness, balance, objectivity, and a few others have been long gone from what I see.

In my view, the tenets should emphasize accuracy, transparency, and professionalism.

Transparency is one that sticks in the craw of most journalists. I want their political views, campaign contributions, past history of advocacy, and even tax records available to readers and viewers—much of which reporters and editors ask of politicians.

Michael Schudson, the noted analyst of journalism, wrote recently in The Columbia Journalism Review, that the issues transcend the current battle between the press and Trump.

“[T]he old days of ritually objective news reporting (he said/she said) are not gone but have been reduced in importance from the 1970s on, as mainstream outlets have increasingly emphasized analysis in news coverage—not quite so much ‘who, what, when, where’ as ‘why.’ There has been a profound cultural shift in journalism during this period. The limitations of straitjacketed objectivity came to be understood and journalism began to embrace the necessity of interpretation, as both quantitative studies and journalists’ recollections attest,” Schudson wrote.

“News organizations should have to explain themselves—to communicate the difference between the news department and the editorial page (more than a quarter of Americans do not understand the distinction); to show how they gather their news; to clarify why they sometimes cannot divulge their sources,” he added.

I hope journalists will listen to Schudson because I have failed in my mission to convince my former and current colleagues.

Whatever the case, I am no longer proud to call myself a journalist. I don’t think I am alone.

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