Much has been said lately about the increasingly irresponsible press. For those of us who keep in mind Walter Cronkite, we are amazed by the sleazy depths to which our press can go nowadays. Their present fascination with Anna Nichole Smith’s loss of life flawlessly illustrates those depths. It really is commonly speculated that the drive for increasing profits by the corporate owners of the news shops, along with fierce and unanticipated competition from the wire stations and Internet blogs have motivated a new concentrate upon the lurid.
I might add the mass media consultants who insist that attractive to the lowest common denominator, easy news, brings, and retains audiences or readers. In spite of ourselves, we are specially fascinated with the downfalls and humiliations of our anointed celebrities. But my concern is not over this sleaziness. In the end, we can still find, if we search, a few outlet stores that do concentrate upon the important world and local news. A deeper and more insidious issue is the credibility of our journalists.
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I believe that most people go into journalism because they have a perfect of finding and sharing the reality about the folks and conditions that form our culture. And sometimes those stresses drive a bending or complete loss of the truth. While I understand that most news outlets have an expressed, or more often unexpressed, political leaning, there remains the moral responsibility to be truthful.
But what is truth in the context of reporting on events and people? Is it still being honest if we highlight those aspects of the story that reinforces our viewpoint while de-emphasizing or overlooking the ones that don’t? Are we a portion our viewers and visitors if we consistently vilify those in the opposing party while blindly praising and overlooking the faults of these in ours? Or is that just being disingenuous? Should the news media be held accountable, as will be the rest of us, when they libel or slander? Sure, occasionally a supermarket tabloid will eventually lose a slander lawsuit, but seldom do the major newspapers or information channels face such sanctions.
When the news headlines mass media are criticized because of their dishonesty, hypocrisy or bias, they cry freedom of speech and partisanship and few want to take them on. They have grown to be above reproach relatively, compared to any other group. And yet no other segment of our society can so dramatically influence public opinion and political dealings.
The press no longer just report on events, they form and even create the occasions. They can make or break political candidates, drive legislation, manipulate the economy into and out of recessions, and even alter foreign policy. They have become a crucial element of our society above reproach largely.