On the Role of Journalism…

Between President Donald Trump’s “fake news” and the media’s constant hand wringing about the president’s “War on Journalism,” it really does feel like the people reporting the news have become as much of the story as the news itself.

As much as I am loathe to say that President Trump is right about anything, perhaps he has stumbled unwittingly on a very good point.

What good is professional journalism at this point?  What is it actually doing right now that isn’t already being done by less professional outlets for less cost and much more effectively?

I know the obvious answer is that the people are so poorly informed nowadays, but is that really true?  Or, I should say, are people really any more poorly informed than they ever have been?

Are the crazy conspiracy theorist, or the hate-filled ranting nutjob, or the inflexibly entrenched partisan really new things?  I’d say not really.  I think every single person can’t even count the number of horribly informed people they know using both hands and their toes, and that number probably really hasn’t particularly increased or decreased over the years.  Hell, the people you’re thinking of right now are probably even the same people you’d be thinking of twenty years ago.

Like with most things that are getting “worse” in our society, I’d contend that the only thing that’s really changed is how visible these terrible things in our society are.  Poorly informed people only seem worse now because there are so many more ways they can show their ass to the world than there used to be.

Mass media is failing not because people no longer care about the news.  It’s because the public no longer needs to pay someone (or serve as a receiver of advertising) to craft a slant, story, or opinion.  There are hundreds of “amateur” journalists or bloggers or newsgroup posters that are giving them the exact same level of “quality” but refined even further to hit the talking points they want to hear for a lot less time and/or monetary investment.

We no longer need journalists to tell a “story.”  Why go to Fox News at certain times of the day, when you can hit up The Blaze or The Raw Story or Breitbart at your leisure?  Why hit up The Guardian‘s website and be begged for money when you can get the same talking points (and get largely the same amount of garbage comments) just by following the right people on Twitter?

Now, with that said, I think journalists do potentially have a vital use… they just have to be willing to actually do it.

Journalists, in many ways, are the first responders of the media.  They have the quickest access to the actual facts of what has happened.  They have the most direct connection to the people who are actually responsible for the events we hear about.

We don’t need stories.  We need facts, and journalists remain our best and most effective way to get them.

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