Occasionally I wonder why I never got into proper journalism, and even if it’d be too late for me to do so. I mean, I like the writing that I do and you certainly don’t have to sell me on the value of entertainment and humor in society, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if I could be doing more if I had chosen to pursue a role in the media, as it were…
I think a lot of this comes about because I see so many flaws around us today that are based on misinformation, even though I’m honestly not sure if I could do it any better or if I would even know how to do so. Kind of piggybacking off of my post earlier this evening about overcoming divides, it’s clear that a lot of people align themselves with either conservative media or liberal media … and I guess the tricky part is that the devil on my shoulder isn’t sure that even if people had a better choice down the middle for their information, if they’d really be interested in that in the world which we live in today.
When I used to watch the Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom over the last couple of years, to me it was a great fictional depiction of what the news ought to be – professionals passionate about getting the story right and not just pursuing leads for sensationalism, standing up for integrity in the fourth estate and particularly pushing back when it came to politicians not giving actual answers and trying to pull the wool over on people’s eyes.
And of course, I’m sure it might be said that I enjoyed that show because I’m a liberal and the whole show was created to make conservative newscasters look stupid, though my simple rebuttal would be that conservative newscasters make themselves look stupid by the ways that they distort and sensationalize the things that they broadcast. The truth is really that both sides exhibit the same problem in different areas, yet in a society today where it’s so easy to pick the news source that makes you feel good by reinforcing the chanting already going on inside your own head, would anybody even pay attention to that alternative news option???
One that I think is actually doing a really good job at producing this type of non-partisan, honest news that I’m talking about right now is VICE. You kind of have to sift through their website to find the really good stories from the same kind of weird clickbait that you find on Salon and Buzzfeed and HuffPost, but their big stories via VICE News – and particularly the ones that go into their series on HBO – feature some pretty nice investigative reporting that exposes issues on a larger scale that are impacting real people all over the world.
For instance, last night I stayed up way too late watching a special feature they did about America’s prison system that included some interviews that President Obama did with inmates at a federal penitentiary. It particularly focused on The War on Drugs and the consequences that have resulted from putting so many people in prison for non-violent offenses – it definitely made you take a second look at a complicated problem in that thirty years ago the edict was simply “Drugs are bad – we can’t be hard enough on criminals!” to now we’re really seeing the effects of those programs decades later and people like Bill Clinton, who played a big role in cracking down on drug offenders, is now admitting that he was wrong and he helped to create an entirely new set of problems that we now have to solve instead.
That’s the kind of journalism that I like to see – not 30-45 second sound bites that grab your attention and flare up the political base, but hands on, gritty research that peels back the layers and gives people a different way of looking at a problem. I’d like to see that same kind of technique applied to other areas – I think the political sphere is ripe for fact-checking because politicians and BS go hand in hand … I just don’t know how it would be received.
Still, there’s a great quote from The Newsroom that rings a certain truth in this regard:
“People will want the news if you give it to them with integrity. Not everybody, not even a lot of people – 5%. And 5% more of anything is what makes the difference in this country…”