Media and Truth: A Mutually Exclusive Relationship?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a rant. So, if you want kindness or technical assistance this is not the post for you (use the search box to find a less angsty post on the topic of your choice.)

If you like a good rant… you are in luck!

I have my roots in media. One of my most enjoyable, challenging and rewarding professional stints was as a reporter and later as a managing editor of a small newspaper. I ponder that time of my life fondly now (in my dotage) and wonder at the amount of energy I had to do all that way back when. Gee what I wouldn’t give for some… even just a little of that now!

Today, the written word is my favorite tool and past time and passion. I think it always will be.

But what I see in the media now absolutely curls my toes (and not in a good way!) There is no relationship between truth and what is written in the mainstream publications. Particular offenders are local newspapers and television newscasts.

Larger papers, assumed to be more reserved with stories more carefully crafted and with a team of fact-checkers on staff, are now slinging sensationalism too. It used to be that I avoided even looking at the “weekly” rags at the checkout line at the grocery store. I’ve NEVER purchased one (nor do I ever intend to). But today, even the local papers use those same reporting “techniques.”

If I had been the editor when some of the recent news stories were submitted, some reporting “heads” would have rolled. I would have benched them or fired them. Period. There’s not even a half-hearted attempt to get facts right in “news” stories…even to the point of the basics (who, what, where, when, how)… even THESE they get wrong.

As far as reporting voice and tone — it’s more like a Stephen King novel than a report. A reporter, people, is supposed to REPORT — hence the name. Capture the reader with your headline, sure, but tell the facts in an unbiased and well researched way in the body.

There, I said it.

A writer of FICTION gets to make it up and “fill in the blanks” between the missing bits of reality strung together for entertainment purposes. This type of writing is not reporting. See the difference? If you have an opinion, it belongs on the OP/ED page — not on the front page.

If you must create stories (which isn’t a bad thing… at all… so long as you don’t try to pass it off as truth) — then write fiction. As a fiction writer, you can play free and easy with the facts as much as you like. It hurts no one. It’s not unethical or immoral then. Then, it’s properly seen as entertainment. Then it’s fun.

And if you are an news editor, and you are letting this half-baked crap be sent to the press you should be ashamed. Where are the Publishers, to fire the editors who don’t fire the reporters for this shameful work product?

Does life not have enough real drama? Must more be created by our “news” outlets? Are the traditional, once respectable, news venues so desperate to hang on financially that they have sold out their rightful role as the watchdog of our society just to sell a few more papers? Are the continuing education classes for journalists now being sponsored by The Enquirer?

How disgusting I find it all.

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