A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Death of Journalism

I agree with many pundits that "old" media is dying out. But I guess I disagree with them on some of the whys and wherefores. It's not so much the format-- I still prefer sitting down with a newspaper while eating breakfast to reading online versions at home or work-- as it is the content. Journalism used to be about being as objective as possible-- reporting the news and letting the viewer process the information as he or she saw fit. And there was a clear and well-defined demarcation between news and everything else.

Over time all journalism has gotten far less objective and the line between news (reality) and everything else (entertainment) has gotten progressively blurred until today it is often non-existent. The trend is most noticeable on TV-- local news anchors "report" on what's happening in upcoming shows on their networks. The trials and tribulations of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears receive greater coverage than what Congress and the President are, or often aren't, accomplishing. And "casual asides" between the various people on the news set become common place-- instant editorializing. Fox News is the most obvious example of the trend, and they have helped push objectivity nearly completely out of the realm of TV journalism, but they are a relative newcomer a trend that has been accelerating for decades.

The trend is less obvious in the print media, but it is definitely there as well. Thus does the online version of the Minneapolis Star Tribune have a lovely "Builder's Showcase" border around its front page. And my local paper's lead story is that Tony Romo's father has cancer. Tony Romo is a local boy-- born and raised in Burlington, Wisconsin here in Racine County-- and one of the hottest commodities in the NFL as the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. So I understand that people are interested in Tony and his father... but the lead story?

And in my university's school paper a recent front-page article detailed the drastic changes made to the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Bill by Wisconsin's State Assembly. Which is fine-- it's an important issue for college students-- but the article doesn't even attempt to be objective. Words like "unfortunately" and "gutted" are scattered liberally throughout the piece and while the viewpoints of supporters of the legislation are included, there isn't a single reference to the viewpoints of those who supported the "gutting" of the bill. If this had been an editorial, then well and good-- editorials are all about opinions and espousing a particular side of an issue. But the front page is not the place to take sides-- it is a place to provide information and to frame the opposing viewpoints on a given issue. While I agree with the viewpoint of the reporter on the topic, I was appalled that it was so transparently obvious on a front page article.

Finally, there is the overall coarsening of our culture. This is not journalisms fault. Rather, I think journalism is increasingly reflecting a culture where there are no boundaries, where the individual is paramount and where everything is not only acceptable but also to be celebrated.
TV and films glamorize violence and shameless individualism. Reality TV blurs the line between fiction and real life. Everyone not only wants their 15 minutes of fame but feels entitled to it-- so that when it does not transpire in short order they feel a need to take things into their own hands.

Oh for the days of Walter Cronkite.

Jeez I'm turning into an old fart.

Labels: ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?