Why I quit Journalism

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When I was younger and decided on majoring in Journalism because I had the idea that the only goal in life is revealing the truth. I wanted to uncover corruption and provide justice for the people in a way that the law couldn’t. I wanted to fight for the person who had no voice. Of course, when we are young, our ideals a faulty as they are untainted with real life.

In one of my classes, Media Ethics, I became aware of a real life situation that distressed me. A woman stood up and talked about how her brother had gone through an extremely traumatizing incident (through respect I will not give the details of the exact story). She talked about the mental affects it had on her as well as her family, friends, and particularly her brother. Immediately after this trauma, the media was after an interview. They tried many tricks to be “the first” to get the story. These tricks caused more stress on the family who went through the entire ordeal. People wanted to know EVERYTHING and ALL things about this particular event in which only her brother could talk about and yet – he couldn’t. He was extremely physically and emotionally he was unable to speak about it. Yet the problem was – the media needed a story and they couldn’t get a hold of the one person they needed for the story – so they did something else. They brought all sorts of “survival experts” and psychologists to interview. As a result, the first interviews about this story were by “experts” who never went through the event themselves who discussed how this man had to have made up the entire situation.
Now can you imagine the mental affects there has to be on someone who not only went through a physically and emotionally traumatizing event (that lasted for days) but because you weren’t ready to speak about it yet, there are now people talking about the worst experience of your life as a made up story on national television.

I can’t imagine how wrong this is. The story vs the Truth.
The woman said her brother (many years later) still has trouble leaving the house. I still feel upset and angry writing about how this family had been treated by the media.
I was emotionally moved and I assumed that everyone in the room (hundreds of students) were as moved as I was. Unfortunately one boy in the row in front of me raised his hand… his one response to this woman who had shared an incredibly vulnerable and moving story was “But, you understand the journalists needed a story? It’s their job! You need to understand us”. I immediately sunk down in my seat not wanting any part of this only to find the majority of people I was sitting with were nodding their heads in agreement with this boy.
It hit me: I am not one of them. I cannot ruin someone’s life just because I need a story to get paid. I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror. Granted – not all journalists are like this – there are some good ones out there that have fought to maintain their integrity but I knew I would feel overwhelmed with trying to compete with the sharks.
You discover that there are many PR companies hired by politicians, all the major corporations, and even countries. PR is necessary, but it’s hard to fight for the little guy when the there are no major lines drawn between the media and the powerful.
The one question I ask when I am listening to a news story or interview is “Who is benefiting?”.
I read news stories non-stop from a wide variety of media sources to try to gain some sense of the truth but I do ask myself that question. I also remember a mentor (in my journalism days) who instructed me that the point is to sell papers and I should “Still report the truth, but write it in a way that is different from other media outlets, and make it interesting”.  It’s hard to stick to the truth when you are trying to write from a “different angle” from the competing news outlets. You might get a version of the truth but not all of it. This is part of the problem today…
Just like when you have children… one child will come to you completely incensed about their sibling hitting them but after questioning the other child you find out that there is more to the story – there is ALWAYS MORE TO THE STORY.

You get more readers by moving them emotionally. We have become a society where we become angry quickly and the media uses that to stay relevant. Unfortunately we have become so emotionally tied to “sides” of a story that we are close to losing all sense of working with people that have different opinions than us. We used to find “different points of view” valuable, and now we want to eliminate them because we are so emotional from what we read and believe.

There have been some “news” stories that have upset me recently because I see the imbalance. The journalists have cared more about getting “the story” at the expense of innocent people lives and well-being. You shouldn’t have to compromise the truth in order to be the first to get the story.
In a world where we want information NOW, the truth is compromised because it takes time to get the “whole” story.

If I could say one thing – I wish that people would pause before getting emotionally worked up about ‘breaking’ news (aka most likely “partial truths”). Here are some things to consider:

  • Is it opinion or is it fact?
  • Who benefits from this story?
  • Is the media using your emotions to develop an opinion on the situation?

If any of this rings true, I would highly suggest “waiting out” the story to see how it develops before allowing the emotion to influence opinion.

I bring this up because I have heard many people recently saying they can’t “handle the news” because it upsets them too much and affects their mental well-being. I hope this blog puts a better perspective on the breaking news stories that are meant to stir up emotions. Maybe we can better prioritize the impact of these stories.

 

 

My goal (with this newly redesigned page) is to use this blog to benefit the readers by writing funny, uplifting, or informative pieces that help promote ways to ‘make life work better’. Hence the name Everything Better. Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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