Here’s a news alert. We have created and cultivated a fungus that if we’re not careful will grow into a bacteria even truth will not kill. Friday members of the press were excluded from the White House Press Briefing. This extreme action by the administration is the tip of the iceberg that’s headed straight for the Titanic carrying our First Amendment Rights. While Friday’s events are the ones making headlines, there is so much more that’s making this alarming.
I worked as a journalist for an affiliate, cable news network and national network for more than 10 years and want to tell you from my insider knowledge what is scary about the state of journalism and how our President is capitalizing on it.
- Local outlets can’t afford to fund beats anymore. In many small and medium-sized markets reports have been declared General Assignment – meaning they’re now a Jack of All Trades, and Master of None.
- Ratings and readership for traditional media outlets is down. The question remains is it down because the quality has decreased, or has the quality decreased because ratings and revenue is down? Either way, the impact is the same.
- The 24-hour news cycle spreads buzzwords and lies faster than ever before. I have a TV background, so I can speak to how it works there. You have the 5pm news. Scripts are written. Supers (those graphic texts at the bottom of the screen) inserted. The 5:30pm news producer, then copies those scripts over from 5pm, and many run again. Maybe they change the lead line, but for the most part, it’s the same story. Fast forward to 11pm – a few things have changed, but the mania continues right through the overnight shift into the 6am news. If that’s not enough, the best buzzwords get inserted into promos that are run through prime time. So if the President calls us fake media, or alleges the media doesn’t cover terror attacks, it’s repeated over and over and over again as stories are recycled through multiple newscasts.
- We’re twisting the knife. The President is creating a sharp narrative that the main stream media is fake, and liberal and out to get the “little guys.” Guess who’s twisting the knife? The media. We’re airing his accusations and declarations, and while they’re often followed by a thorough fact check, the majority of folks watching only heard the first part. They’re home making dinner, or doing homework with their kids, or brushing their teeth.
- Many of us get our news from Facebook. I’m included in this group, but here’s the reality. Because of outlets I’ve “liked” and “followed” and the algorithms of Facebook, I am only presented news that validates my beliefs. My friends like and post and further validate how “right I am.” This is happening all across America, for people of all political persuasions. We are choosing, accidentally or on purpose, to only be presented with information that underscores what we believe to be true. Then we’re sharing it on social media, sometimes before verifying the information or reading the entire article. It’s a dangerous potion that will further divide our country – since the “main stream media” that used to be the litmus test for what was fact – is being trampled by accusations they are fake.
So now what? I’ve listed all these reasons why our First Amendment rights are being threatened and undermined – and what can we do about it? I don’t have that answer exactly. That’s why I’ve struggled to write this for several weeks. If you present a problem, you should offer a solution, right? The one piece of advice I can offer is to my fellow media colleagues still in the trenches … Stop legitimizing false statements. Don’t even repeat them. It’s instinctive for journalists to cover intently our leadership at all times – but in this case we must be careful not to offer a megaphone for falsehoods. I implore members of all media outlets to band together with your counterparts and say “this is not okay.”
And for the rest of us – let’s brainstorm together. Awareness of a sickness is half the battle. We need to figure out how to get out of this vicious cycle that is threatening the integrity of this country.