by Jacques Rozier
Journalism is reaching a crossroads. As a profession, we navigate between the desire to please ratings and click rates versus honoring the need of our demographics to be informed. We are in an era where a news slogan or creative newswriting tend to supersede investigating the questions that our publics need to know.
The argument can be made that journalism exists to keep track of what the government does. Freedom of the press from laws of the government means that journalists, or even those deemed to be acting in the name of journalism, have protection from any government entity that would consider trying to control content and delivery. Currently, we are in the business of controlling what we feel is important to know, which can mean missing important stories by choosing to devote time to what is trending because we have decided nothing “important” happened on a particular day.
Most of my friends and family know that I had a brief career behind the scenes in local television news; my current educational focus is to return to sports. One criticism that many of them relay revolves around agenda-setting, which is basically telling people what to think about. My friends and family do not feel the media adequately informs on what they need to know. Many of them assume the decisions of what they are seeing on TV or in print and online is at the discretion of corporate managers who have hands over many of the products. They do not realize that citizens who look and live similar to them make the news decisions based on a belief they have an expertise in what the public should see or need to know.
Since I have seen news shows “created” from behind the scenes, I have found that most decisions, especially on a timeslot outside of the six or the late night news, tend to treat their shows as repeats of other broadcasts or a chance to put in soft news stories with the hope to boost ratings. I would like to think that during my time as a producer, I was very respectful of my viewers by selecting content that informed them about their world as opposed to entertaining them; the news can and should do both. It is our responsibility to find the questions and answer them. We may find that adhering to journalistic truths in investigating and reporting will simultaneously improve viewership through trust instead of sensationalism. With the power entrusted to us just because of our profession, I encourage my fellow journalists to remember the responsibility and humility that comes with this profession.
It is not a chance to be a star, you are simply a medium to information.