Lies, damn lies, and newspapers

Google Analytics displayed a queer stat the other today – one person got to my site by typing in “journalism lies.” Interesting that, since I have been thinking about that same notion. Touring around DC, I often walk past the Newseum and roll my eyes at the gargantuan screen print of the first amendment hanging from its edifice. I haven’t gone in yet because it’s about $20, which I liken to a really huge PayWall compared to the ridiculous FREEness of the Smithsonian museums.

The little search query got me thinking about all the ways journalists lie to themselves about their work.

Journalism exists as a fourth estate to protect the first amendment.

In my “Journalism and Democracy” class with Dr. Ryfe, whenever we uttered fourth estate, he would always make sure that we were saying what we mean to say – that is, we believe our roles to be protectors of freedom of speech. Usually, the answer was no. Because guess what? There are a multitude of journalisms being committed: communitarian, public, and collaborative journalism. To say that we exist only to mouth off at the government severely limits our roles in our communities and worse, takes a lot of responsibility out of our hands. Which brings me to the second lie…

Journalism is objective

Kovach and Rosenstiel said that journalists should be “separate from faction.” There was something in there about Aristotle too and objectivism. I forget, shame on me. It’s ideal to base your work on factual information, however a few too many journalists take this to a ridiculous extreme – Hi Brian Williams who doesn’t vote! We can report on issues we are passionate about while remaining critical and analytical. I am a feminist but I don’t agree with every feminist, be they private or public citizen. I can report on equal wages, abortion, and sexual politics and still be factual. Just because the facts are heavily in our favor, doesn’t mean I’m spinning this shit 10 ways to Tuesday.

Journalists give voice  to the mute, or something like that

I’m in DC (or at least the Metro area) where more than half of the population is black. Yet when I’ve walked into several newsrooms for interviews, it’s decidedly not representative of their own community. How can we say that we give voice to the voiceless when we don’t even represent them? I take particular issue with this problem. Unlike our own high-fallutin’ ideals about free speech, this is about people. It’s about people and their stories. But so many of their stories are quite literally unheard because the journalists we employ cannot even begin to fathom the community they live in. Don’t give me fluff about “White people can have different ideas, blah.” Sure white Americans come from rich and poor, middle America and city life; but the majority of them still don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against from the moment you were born. You can rise above it and no one will be the wiser that your mom was a drug addict or that you had a conartist father. What do they assume about my mother? That she is either a nurse, speaks terrible English or married my dad for a greencard (none of which are true). Why? Because I am Filipino. How do you think THAT has colored view on life (not the way you’d think!)? So really newspapers don’t give voices to the voiceless, because they aren’t even trying to hear what they have to say.

[I would like to write more on this topic, but I feel I need to do more research…talk to some folks on the hiring and job seeker end. If you have any suggestions, say so in the comments.]

Moving on to some lighter areas…

The inverted pyramid is the best kind of journalistic writing / New Yorker-style writing is amazing

Yawn. Every article in the New Yorker sounds like it was written by the same person and the inverted pyramid? More like the inverted ASS-amid. Ok that wasn’t funny, but still. Sure, online and print readers alike have the attention span of a yapper-type dog, but only because we’ve spoiled them with boring ledes, or leads, or le-i-ahh-des. Take a page from the creative writers – dazzle them with some REAL writing prowess! How ’bout starting off the article with being trapped in the trunk of a car?

Breaking news is the most important kind of news or “We’ve already covered that.”

This is really more of a contradiction than a lie. First off, we write boring  ledes/leads because we think our readers have short attention spans, however we refuse to repeatedly report on an issue because it’s been done before therefore it’s old news? I think news orgs have the short attention span…

And those are some of the lies we like to tell ourselves…Well, I don’t obviously. I like to end my articles with a fftt and I’m aware of that.

Tell me more about how journalism LIES in the comments.

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