What Really Killed Journalism

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I got to thinking out loud after watching Chuck Todd blast what he perceives to be this new era of “Drudge-driven journalism.” I found his critique considerably rich, considering that the state-run media has done the very thing of which he accuses the right side of the sphere: look no further than Palin-Trig-Gate ’08, the McCain birth-Panama story, et al. I could very nearly argue both sides of this issue but see truth in only one.

There’s an upswing in <fingers>advocates</fingers> for the American people. They come by way of reporters, most often politicians, people eager to collect pawns with which to buy and spend political capital. In Todd’s case, he cares so much about distributing information and relies heavily on the notion that only a professionally trained journalist is equipped to tell the stories of our time or to distribute information to the masses. It’s subtle elitism: you have to have training at a predominately liberal academic haus in order to qualify for the upper echelon of story-telling. They teach you all about AP upstyle in these classes, they teach you how to craft a proper lede, they teach you the mechanics of news writing (something that anyone with some cash and the ability to purchase a few style books can figure out for themselves), but one of the things they either cannot or don’t teach is the importance of telling the truth and reporting objectively. You can write the fanciest news stories in the world but what does it matter if you betray the very nature of your craft by employing your slant via detail omission or perspective?

Todd’s preferred process is a way to keep a stronghold on the way news is distributed. I find it rather interesting that the majority of the news is now spread via social media and Web 2.0, something that wasn’t even taught in colleges (much less coined as a phrase) when these well-written bloggers and videographers were in college. You don’t have to have a pricey education to tell the truth and you can learn the mechanics of writing well but Funk and Wagnalls can only take you so far. The rest is je ne sais quoi, something with which you’re born.

Continuing with advocacy, the above biased measure of qualification is used in an ironic fashion by the water-carriers for this administration, the reporters who deny the outright rejection of policies which threaten to circumvent the will of the people by way of omission, a practice which is the very opposite of the watchdog nature for which journalism was created. Oh, but people like Todd are looking out for the American people. The same “advocates” who argue against the sheep and shepherd mentality when it comes to religion will use the example to advocate for their religion; why, they’re “advocates” for these poor American people who are too busy with their SUVs and soccer practice and “Lost” to understand the complexities of legislation which will adversely impact 1/6th of the economy along with their right to decide what goes on in their doctors’ offices.

The idea that advocacy is journalism is what killed it, not bloggers, not social media, not Web 2.0.

No reporter doesn’t have a slant. I’ve met two in my lifetime who do but are so good at their craft you would never know. They are a dying breed, an unpopular breed.

Besides the confusion with advocacy, another reason that state-run media is dying is because reporters with an obvious slant think that the American people are too stupid to notice. They all say the same things, from their satellite stations, the television broadcasts, the lefty blogs. It’s why people listen to conservative talk radio, it’s why conservative blogs are exploding in terms of traffic and creation online.

The American people don’t need “advocates” for their news anymore than they need “advocates” for their health care choices, energy choices, so on and so forth. We’re smart enough to read both sides of an issue and deduce the truth. Drop the charade of advocacy, fairness, and objectivity.