Ripped From The Bylines
What has news come to?
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I wanted to be a journalist. The reasons for the desire were numerous, including it was the one writing job that my parents wouldn't complain that I couldn't make money doing it and I would still be writing. Best of all, I would be making a difference in the world. Exposing bad guys would make the world a better place for my nieces and nephews. It was ideal, almost utopian. Then Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President and the world went upside down.
To be fair, journalism had been going through a revolution before Trump's announcement. Gone were the days of only having one newscast per day. Networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC had made a 24 hour news cycle common place. Yet there was still a certain amount of decorum in the reporting, and journalists were still fact checking their stories. Pundits and Talking heads may have spouted off with their opinions, there would be nothing wrong with that, if they hadn't presented it as news. That's where it all went wrong.
In the current day news industry, a snippet of a speech or a thought about something that the reporter read has become the news. Trump says enough crazy things that we don't need to edit his quotes to make the story more sensational, just tell him that his ratings are falling. Seriously though with as much crazy that's happening in the world, why are the biggest news stories about one snippet of a speech. Like Trump's "I don't want poor people running the economy" statement, yes it's newsworthy. But it was the lead story on nearly every local station and every network for like 3 days. The Comey and Sessions testimonies got less airtime.
The news industry has gone from ripped from the headlines to ripped from the bylines. There is nothing newsworthy unless we have 4 pundits beating us over the head with what they THINK it means, which then makes their thoughts the story. Bill O'Reilly did this the best, though to be fair to him, he never presented himself as a journalist. Yet his words were diffused at a pace only beat by Brian Williams. Of course, we know that Williams lied about some of his adventures, which calls into question his credibility as a journalist.
Gone are the days of Woodward and Bernstein, working tirelessly on a story that would ultimately bring down the Presidency. If the Watergate scandal happened today, the talking heads over at Fox News would call it ludicrous and insist that Nixon was a good man and that the "liberal" media was out to get him. While network journalists would tirelessly ask why Nixon wasn't saying anything about the story. What happened to good old-fashioned journalism?
It seems too easy to blame the decline of solid reporting on the 24-hour news cycle alone. Some have suggested that blogging has taken the wind out of reporters sails because now anyone can take information and diffuse it, anyway that they want to. That can weigh on someone's soul. They put in 4 years of school, only to find that Perez Hilton is making more money than they are and doing half the work. The thing is though that eventually the page views are going to go away for Perez and all that will be left of his reputation is drawing doodles on pictures and being mean. A real reporter will be able to fall back on their reputation, like Barbara Walters. As the first woman to co-anchor a network's newscast, she could have rested on her laurels. Yet she moved from NBC to ABC and became a hard-hitting interviewer, who worked hard to get to the top. People still angle to be interviewed by her, even though she is years into her retirement. Are there any reporters left?
Somewhere, I have to believe that there are. Right now, I have pushed my desire to be the next Murphy Brown (yes I know she's fictional) and am focusing on opinion and Think Pieces, while nurturing my fiction slate. Because while I can't be the solution right now, there is no way that I am going to be a part of the problem.