Journalism Should Be Better

I went to J-school at The University of Missouri-Columbia. If you know me, you know it’s no secret that I really wanted to be a “rockstar,” like Def Leppard and Poison. But even with the long hair (yes, I had some once upon a time) and earring, my parents weren’t going to fund that particular career path, so I chose “advertising and public relations” and that field of study was housed in the J-school. They made me learn about journalism there and I studied among people who were going to become professional journalists and “change the world.”

Unfortunately, they did…and not really for the better. Of course, a few things happened along the way including a massive reduction in the amount of people actually working in journalism. In the past two decades, we’ve lost basically 70 percent of the profession at every level and that is because none of us want to actually pay for good editorial content because we perceive it to be “free” and “everywhere.” Money is the root of all evil and I believe that all of the “evil” in journalism we see today comes from a huge LACK of money.

That led to the quiet consolidation of our TV stations, radio stations and newspapers into conglomerates that (for efficiency reasons) serve the same news to local markets along with the same bias, etc. Those of us in PR know this because we see the “feed behind the feed” as we monitor news, but your average person might not know that messages can be pushed out into local markets in exactly the same way (same exact words read by news anchors actually) and delivered into hundreds of communities. Hey, when we get a nice holiday gift piece for a product or service on a local station, would we rather see that in one market or 1,000? So you can start to see the problem, right?

The national media have always leaned a bit to the left and most people know that. But that gentle lean has turned into a full-on downward dog pose right into an almost insane level of liberal bias. 92 percent of the news media coverage of President Trump has been negative in tone and that’s just crazy. Unfortunately, this has been noticed by all and as of 2018, the media enjoy the LOWEST credibility levels in history among both Democrats and Republicans alike. Yikes. 

As you can see from the graphic above, it is also now commonplace and acceptable at Gizmodo (a leading tech outlet) to call the President of the United States (the most powerful position in the free world) an “idiot” and amplify an individual reporter’s opinion into what could be perceived as fact. Journalism has fallen into a very dark place and it’s taking all of us there.

What was supposed to inform people, now incites them. What was designed to increase the intelligence of the American people, now limits it. What was supposed to give us interesting things to discuss has now cut off all discussion altogether. And I would like to see our friends in the media, take a breath, take that amazing First Amendment, read it through, realize the immense responsibility it bestows and get back to some actual journalism.

That’s what they taught me at Mizzou J-School and I still believe that journalism can be saved. We’d all better hope so.