Today’s in class discussion sparked an idea in me. I talked a little about it in class and I mentioned it to Justin, but it deals with our obligation to the public, ourselves and those who pay the bills.
Ask most any serious journalist or journalism students what their first obligation is when it comes to journalism, and they’ll (and we’ll) tell you that it’s the truth. We are in this business to find the truth. We certainly aren’t in it for the money. It is a calling.
We can call ourselves the watchdog’s of the government, and it is pretty cool to find some government mismanagement or issue. But we also love telling personal stories and finding the good in the world. Those are the fun stories to tell. So when we get into the professional world and we have to go by the “if it bleeds it leads” motto, something dies inside us. Why?
Because TV news and even newspapers are becoming more and more show businessy. Lead stories are murders or crashes or missing children. Why? People are interested in that stuff and they like to see it on the news. If it bleeds, it leads. And it has too, or people won’t watch. If people don’t watch, advertisers and ads don’t reach as many people. If that happens, then they won’t advertise. No advertisers, no money. No money, no jobs. And that just sucks.
How do we as journalists balance the bleeding stories with the great, personal awesome stories? We just have to sit down, grin and bear it, I guess. We find our contacts, write the stories, then put our time and effort into the real stories. Those still make it into the news, and they get great reactions too.
I don’t like it that this is our model now. I want to help change that, but I don’t know how or if it is even possible. I would like to think that journalists are more informed than the general population because it’s our job, but when the news is just people dying or missing, are we really? It all becomes a cycle.
I want out of that cycle, but it feels like there is no way out because the business side won’t allow it. I mean, it’s not like we make a ton of money either.
Yes, I went with the money line. It’s okay though. Why? Because we actually, really, 100% love what we do. Most of the time.