I was sitting in a coffee shop recently (a place, by the way, where our leaders could find a solution to many of today's problems), and could not help but overhear a discussion between some gentlemen. They had no doubt been around long enough, and had seen enough of the world to be able to discuss any topic. Their topic of choice at that moment was: The general state of morality in America today; better or worse than it use to be. After debating it for about half an hour, the consensus seemed to be that it was definitely worse.
However, the gentleman who appeared to be the elder statesman
of the group disagreed. He conceded that while there is considerable immorality, especially in Washington D. C., things may not have generated to the point that some people believe. "People in the media are doing a more complete job of keeping
us informed of the immorality that occurs today then they did in the past," he stated. The group thought about this for a moment, then I saw several began to nod their heads in agreement. At that point the conversation lulled, and I paused drinking
my coffee to consider what this elderly savant had proffered. I finished my coffee and left but could not get his comments out of my mind.
He was right! In my opinion, the media have overdone the sensational and the licentious. I am not for a minute suggesting that newspaper reporters and television news people should ignore character issues, or scandals involving public figures. To do so would be wrong, but, sometimes they get caught up in a competition thing.... each trying to get the public to read their paper, or watch their news show. It's not to get the necessary information, heaven knows they could present that in a much shorter format. The general reason seems to be to project themselves as the most knowledgeable about that particular topic, scandal, or person, and convince us that we should read or watch them exclusively if we want to know the whole truth of the matter. (Case in point, the recent situation around Brian Williams, where he tried to present himself as being more involved in a hot story than he was). Many of them will spend an hour, or half a page, telling us what, in their opinion, was said, done, or written. As a result, good taste, along with good journalism, often takes a beating.
Newspapers, television network news, cable news, news magazines, and now the Internet blitzes us with pictures and words we seldom received with our dinner. Our children read stories and are subjected to phrases that we never heard until we became adults, and went into the military in some cases. The phrases, "He's got a mouth like a sailor," or "She talks like a marine," did not come from Sunday school.
I'm sure there are many reporters and editors across this country who are honest people at heart and truly want to do a good job reporting what they consider to be newsworthy events. However, it seems it only takes one "taste of blood," so to speak to incite all of them to dig for the juiciest morsel they can find, no matter how small or insignificant. They then make every effort to enlarge that portion to convince us they have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth no matter what the consequences. (The Rolling Stone article on the supposed rape case at the University of Virginia comes to mind here.) The reporter made no effort to substantiate any of her information, she seemed to be determined to write a big story to make a name for herself, the consequences for a school and several people be damned! She was not dismissed from her job, even when it became apparent that none of her information was true. The retraction of the story by Rolling Stone did nothing to ease the accusations against the University or anyone associated with the case. It was a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary, essential practices of reporting, in order to publish a story that would draw national attention.
It is now time for the "Media" to look inside themselves and give serious consideration to the news that they choose to report, and how they report it. They cannot continue to point their fingers at society's parents and say, "supervise what your children reads, watches, or listens to," and at the same time encourage children, parents, and schools to buy and read their magazines and newspapers, and watch television news programs, all of which they claim to be responsible journalism.
The media have created a monster that appears to have an appetite that can't be satisfied. It is time to stop hiding behind the first admendment and truly report the news responsibily. If they do not, then they are no better than the politicians who claim that their morals should not be a matter of public record.