Journalists are a nasty bunch of wraiths who will bully, deceive, cheat, and sell their souls to get a scoop on a good story.  And if they can’t get a good story, they’ll manipulate the truth until it’s something that will sell.

Leastways, that’s what popular media has always led me to believe.

I am perhaps a lonely one among the masses in that I have a great deal of respect for the noble industry of journalism. If you ever read, watch, or listen to the news, you should too.  Let me tell you why.

“Over the past 20 years more than 2000 journalists and media staff have been killed in the line of duty. They died simply because someone did not like what they wrote or said, because someone did not like journalists or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

International Federation of Journalists

I’ve no doubt that there are journalists who match the description with which I started this post, just as I’m sure there are people in a variety of professions who will do anything to get ahead. I will go so far as to say that highly competitive fields encourage that behaviour.  But I do believe that, despite the few charlatans of the journalism industry, the objective of journalism is to uncover truth.  Sometimes, in seeking out the truth, journalists place themselves at odds with entities who want the truth to remain hidden.  Sometimes, in seeking truth and in bringing the world to us, journalists place themselves in war-ravaged territories midst explosions and gunfire and shrapnel.

Do you remember Stephen Glass? He was a reporter for The New Republic, a Washington, D.C.-based editorial magazine. In 1998, it was discovered that Glass had fabricated all or part of a good portion of his articles. Years ago, I read his book, The Fabulist, and though I will acknowledge it was an entertaining read — no one ever accused Glass’ of being dull — I found the book to be unabashedly self-serving. The statements of remorse were empty, particularly in juxtaposition to the embellished stories told to calculated effect. I didn’t get the impression that Glass felt he had done anything wrong. But journalists did. The whole field of journalism shunned him, and continues to shun him.  The ones who exposed him have been lauded and elevated to prominent positions in the world of journalism.

Today, I am thankful for journalists.  Sure, news sources sensationalize, but we can hardly criticize them for capitalizing on feeding the public the macabre when it is we, the public, who are consuming it.  Journalists have uncovered scandal and corruption, helping the laity keep an eye on The Powerful, and serving as a conspicuous warning to would-be fraudsters that they had best keep straight lest their transgressions make it to the headlines.  Journalists have brought the world to our doorsteps and have risked their lives doing so.  They told us what Hitler was up to in Germany, they let us know about the Rwandan Genocides, they have reported on countless armed conflicts throughout the years.  They have highlighted injustices and elevated heroes.  Some have been kidnapped, tortured, and killed trying to seek the truth.

I am grateful for journalism because it has opened the world to me.  Sometimes that world is ugly, but seeing what lies beneath its adorned surface has had the power to motivate me to want to play some role in changing it for the better.

Advertisements