I am a big supporter of the age old adage of keeping your mouth shut if you have nothing worthwhile to say. Often, just because you can say something doesn’t necessarily mean you should go ahead and let it rip! I was never made more aware of this philosophy than in my first year of Journalism studies.
In the famous words of Stan Lee, “with great power there must also come great responsibility”, it is terrifyingly easy for those of us in journalism and the media to forget that we are in a very fortunate, but dangerous position of influencing a lot of people reading and/or listening to our work.
Our audiences are often poles apart – from the aged to the very informative young, those that blotch an entire spectrum of social status & class, and those who (though it may be a little disrespectful to admit, but how we journalists at times dissect our readership/listener base) vary in intelligence and simple, good old fashioned common sense (an increasing rarity in modern times unfortunately!).
Journalists wield a great amount of power that is directly correlated to the magazines, television stations, newspapers and other forms of media we work for. The freedom of speech act is a card pimped around a lot by journalists who often try to cover up what we write/say and as a human rights activist, I strongly agree with the ability to give a voice to those of us who are more often than not, ignored. But what about when that speech is treacherously bordering on inciting hate, discrimination, negativity and the blatant ability to bully an individual/organisation because they clearly aren’t in a position to provide a comeback?
I have been a part of very large Australian based publishing houses (as well as the number one arguably) and as much as I hate to admit it, I cringe at the “stories” that have been reported by some of the big guns I have written/worked for. It would seem that our media outlets are so brazenly deciding what is Gospel now, we no longer have to cloak our “opinions” as “newsworthy stories” for the greater good, because now what we say is what goes, similar to the common bullying antics repeated in the murky corners of the school playground of “it’s right because I say so”.
But it isn’t, is it? Journalism evolved from a noble concept, a strong belief that the people had the right to know, where events were presented as objectively and unbiasedly as humanely possible, where we trusted the integrity and intellect of our audience to shape their own perspectives and viewpoints. What changed? Why do we in the media feel the need to dictate what others think and who/what they should support in a world we pride ourselves on as democratic?
Are our viewers no longer knowledgeable enough to make up their own minds? I would strongly disagree. What I do believe however is that we in the media have, as all humans regretfully eventually do at the first sniff of it, become power crazy, hungry for more, devouring the possibility of ruling those who we can as much as we can.
History is testament to exploitation failing and that is the real reason I believe news is a dying phenomenon, not the reality television shows wrapping their tentacles over unsuspecting viewers’ minds the way some would have us believe.
The cancer attacking “real news” is the need to control, not the diminishing rationality of our potential audience. I would suggest that if we start presenting “real news” the way our virtuous profession set out to do when it started all those centuries ago, news will become cool again.
And until we can do that, could we please learn to think before we write/speak? There is no shame in shutting up sometimes.