My Professor in my China relations class began the semester by saying for a little while he was worried there wouldn’t be enough current events to keep the class lively, but he wasn’t worried anymore. My Professor said, “We are at a completely new place in the history of humanity, the structure of the world around us is shifting, and it is the most interesting thing in our universe.”
Journalism, in a Nutshell.
It feels as if the tectonic plates making up the sectors of humanity are shifting. This planets’ people are moving, and the undercurrent of political structures, and thus population structures are surging with energy. It’s like subsurface currents, the kind you’re told to look out for when swimming in the ocean. The factors that pull and push the water can be individually identified but together the direction becomes unpredictable.
Regardless, it is vital that we individually chart them anyway. The amount of ocean (to put it in broad terms) we don’t comprehend is exponential, considering it makes up the majority of our known world. Oceanographers chart the world of the sea, differing in opinion and background but with a common goal to understand more and to preserve the life already in place.
Journalists tread in the same waters. The laws and politics practiced around the world have come to shape our everyday lives. With factors effecting the currents all the time. Human conscious brings complexity, and intentions are far harder to predict. But there, with a notebook-watching and listening, is a reporter, informing the citizens of changes which may or may not effect the circle they are busy inhabiting.
To Put it in Journalistic Terms..
In The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel the purpose of journalism is, “Not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ.” Instead, they write, “the principles and purpose of journalism are defined by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people.”
The American Press Institute describes news as “that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside. Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed.” Ultimately the API states, “The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”
It would make sense then, as the enormous political arena’s of the world twist under the blanket of nations sewn awkwardly together; journalism and thus the infrastructure of civilization erupts, trying to find footing again. To finally acknowledge the elephant in the room, the United States, the most influential country in the world, has elected a President who tells his citizens news organizations lie to their audience. Trump directly and actively protests organizations built upon a dedication to credibility, and deep intent to tell the truth.
Though Journalism is a new craft compared to the politics of Empires in history’s past, it is clear the people of our civilized time want information, in order to have a say in the way they are governed. I believe Journalists work in order to gather this information and present what stands out to the reader, so people have the ability to adjust their lives accordingly. Compared to the rapid growth technology has seen in recent decades, journalism has had a longer history, established alongside the American Revolution. The roots, so heavily entwined with the democratic principles Americans hold dear, are instrumental in recognizing journalism today.
The first Newspaper conceptualized by Benjamin Harris in 1690, only consisting of one issue, lay out the initial foundations for Journalism, the intent nestled along with the principles.
The pace at which generations evolve is so fast, imagining the steps of the people before is nearly impossible. To put it plainly, times have changed since the first newspaper was published.
The three propositions Harris puts forth are in effect, a pledge to publicly journal information of-interest, shedding light on important knowledge and helpful material. On the less concrete side, Harris aimed to find trust in people despite human ill will, forcing corrections to be made when a mistake occurs, and to report those attempting to spread false information.
I don’t think anyone can help but feel nostalgia for a past never experienced, but seemingly simpler. It is easy to get lost in nostalgia, a bad habit no one is exempt from.
Roots remain, holding journalists back but also pushing them forward. The junction before us demands serious reflection and analyzation in order to keep performing the job of informer.
Coming to understand the inevitable pull of nostalgia I’ve come to two conclusions. Though neither are very conclusive. For one, Donald J. Trump’s supporters are nostalgic for the “Great America.” While on the other end, Journalism, as it’s been preached, has been chasing the high of the past century for too long, bordering paternalism. Both currents keep us from moving symbiotically, intelligently, progressively. Which leads to my next conclusion: nostalgia is biased, and people are stubborn.
Regarding journalism, my own nostalgia yearns for information presented in a nicely tied package for reading and storing away, into one of the many file cabinets fit together making up all my learned knowledge.
I fell in love with journalism when I saw the world’s history come together and shed light on the latest development of life. I fell in love with journalism because it was the art of knowing what had happened, what was happening and then crafting the story in a beautiful raw way. I fell in love with journalism because it was the journal for human life and it told the evolution of people, and people are intimate.
Something has happened along the way; the relationship between news and the people is flooded with skepticism. I believe it is a culmination of fundamental failures in the systems that construct our lives. It’s as if the ocean is contaminated with so much debris, but the oceanographers all work under organizations trying to stay afloat, leaving ocean life squirming under the surface. I believe these organizations need to level again, let go of the foundations keeping them afloat, in order to report on what is happening beneath the surface.
News is no longer just a word representing current information. The word isn’t a boring depiction of facts anymore; now news is controversial, and now it is charged with doubt.
**I’m a firm believer in questioning everything that’s written, and using multiple sources. I also believe that objectivity is dead the minute pen touches paper, or more appropriately when fingers begin to type.
The population is exponentially growing. The problems the world faces are deeper than generations on generations. Technology has made everything public, but without any order. When did the practice of journalism become so convoluted?
In order to progress as an individual, you’ve got to look within and see the good aspects, but you’ve also got to look in and see the bad. The same is true of any platform with the ability to affect. Journalism, as with any long standing career field, has brilliant leaders, and certain fundamental ideals that ought to live on, with roots that need to be listened to and understood.
In looking back, I have come to understand that the history of journalism can no longer be used as a crutch for today’s reporting principles. As much as it pains me to say. The origin of journalism is rooted in educated exclusivity and partisanship. Although journalism evolved, the golden age of the 70’s was also it’s destruction. The popularity of visual media meant the shortening of attention spans, the shift from manufacturing jobs to service jobs (illustrated in the drop of manufacturing shares in the U.S. GDP in the 1960’s) coinciding with the exponential growth of outsourcing meant the deterioriation of middle America’s economy, and finally the aggregation of journalism institutions on the U.S. coasts meant the emergence of coastal elitism.
Maybe the Chinese were right in believing that capitalism was never going to work, because self-interest will always be selfish, and the ’08 financial crisis gave more weight to their argument. Along this train of thought, outsourcing in the 1970’s was inevitable. Journalists focused on what was happening, and that meant reporting on New York happenings and California’s Hollywood sunshine. Reporters looked at what was wrong with the U.S. government, and they wrote about foreign affairs. Technology was interesting, and it was improving. College students were in the know, loud, and confrontational. Journalists had a lot of material to write about, and they wrote about what they thought people wanted to learn.
Lack of historical background led U.S. administrations to screw up relationships in the Middle East, not only with America, but among each other. The same lack of historical background led to Vietnam and the Iraq war. To write about the Middle East means a long understanding of Middle East history, of religion, and the ability to simplify that in terms that the average U.S. citizen can comprehend. Censorship in China and Russia keeps Americans from seeing and empathizing with the people there.
Meanwhile the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. My generation is the first expected to not surpass the income of our parents. Public education in America has no doubt steadily improved over time, but as William Galston describes in a PBS article on whether or not there is a crisis in public schools explains that there are two types. The difference in quality schooling between wealthier jurisdictions and poorer jurisdictions speaks momentously. Wealthier jurisdictions are in wealthier states, most of which are on the Coast. Rural areas and poorer urban neighborhoods are in need of emergency aid. Now the United States has a Secretary of Education who has basically no history with public schools. Betsy DeVos, along with her children have had the privilege of attending private schools their entire lives. DeVos pushes for selective Charter Schools and deregulation.
It’s Gotta Be Trump.
The smaller communities that made up the majority of Trump’s votes in the 2016 elections have been ignored across the board. In the 1960’s manufacturing made up the majority of jobs in middle America. The progress of technology meant outsourcing wasn’t depicted as inherently bad, and the drop in the economy meant a drop in quality education. The middle of America, although a broad term, was ignored by reporters and in a state of deterioration.
The press bread a distrust of the government, while the concepts of foreign affairs, such as issues within the Middle East and with China are beyond complicated to understand especially without an education system that caters to the youth. Sturdy and popular journalism institutions wrote about the racism that was still out there, focusing on small towns manufacturing white guilt. Meanwhile terrorism was over reported and Muslims became the issue.
Trump said he would bring jobs back, Trump said he would stop Mexicans from taking them. Trump said he would get rid of terrorism, and whites needn’t feel guilty but had every right put blame upon others, especially Muslims. Trump said he saw them, and cared about them. Trump didn’t have a history of political hypocrisy like Hillary Clinton because he hadn’t been political. Trump said he would do exactly what he said he would, and for the most part, he is.
The Nieman Lab article is a record of how current social media sites, and news organizations failed in the months even years leading up to Trump’s election. And the truth is these same forces are acting in countries around the world. Political actors, preying upon similar communities Trump did are being seriously considered, gaining popularity and utilizing similar media tactics.
Holland’s Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen both want to further themselves from the EU, and both want to ban Muslim immigrants. The Time article, http://time.com/4752762/europe-populism-nationalism-le-pen-france-election/ explains how although it is unlikely for Le Pen to win, and Wilders does not have the significance he had hoped, the ideas and communities Trump promoted are not inherent to the U.S. and journalism everywhere is universally divided.
Where do we go from here?
The great partisan split feels unsalvageable. Journalism played a decisive role in this. When the job was to inform, and explain instead journalism has turned into a pretentious platform while writing of only one side.
When asked how journalism failed at covering the 2016 election, Lydia Polgreen, editor of the Huffington Post, said in a panel at Harvard that, “we wrote about them [middle America republicans] but not for them.”
It is under this guise that I formulated a list on how Journalists ought to move about in the world, and improve the standing of journalism as the fourth estate.
- Journalists can’t be an asshole
This one is a character thing, pretty self explanatory.
2. Be well versed, in everything
In order to write about complicated topics, a history of the topic and surrounding issues needs to be understood. Not only the skeleton of a wikipedia article, but the arguments for and against and surrounding the topic. Otherwise only one side will be reported on, and the other will be left out.
Of course a reporters job is to ask questions, but beyond that it is to listen to the answers. To read between the lines. To listen to entire communities and gauge how their perception is created, empathizing with the forces that lead them there.
4.Use today’s tools
The majority of audiences are not reading long written articles, are not capable of paying attention to 1,000 words without pictures on a topic, are not scouring the internet to find the right answers. It is a journalists job to know this, and use the technology and tools and social media platforms to get the truth out there.
Of everything. The way people talk, the way you react. The space your in, and how you fit into it. The influence your article can have, and the weight in every word.
6 Write hard and clear about what hurts -Hemingway
I thought this quote from Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card does a good job summing up the answer to great partisanship.
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”