As a graduating journalism student, I’m proud to have learned under professors with great pedigrees that include Pulitzer Prizes or once working at major news outlets like the Boston Globe. From the nut graph to why AP Style is the norm, I have been taught well.
However, I have felt a disconnect between the core goal of journalism and the current journalism practices in this country. All of my professors have said, “report the facts.” I was taught to uncover the truth and to give a voice to those who need one.
The biggest lesson I learned was to grasp the whole picture, and look into every perspective.
Yet major outlets like the New York Times or the Washington Post do not follow the current golden standards of journalism.
The Washington Post for instance, used selective editing and framing for an article published April 20 entitled “White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry”.
The article states that the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was crafted by Republicans, screwed up by distributing cash to major restaurant and hotel chains. However, the main point, which the article tries to craft, is undermined by pointing it out towards the end of the article. “Spending on hotels and restaurants accounts for less than 10 percent of the total money funds dispersed so far, according to the SBA.”
So essentially, the writer wrote 1,800 words about how the GOP messed up by giving millions to chains, while mentioning at the end that the suggested reason for the fallings of the SBA, giving millions to major chains, accounted at most, 10% of the fund.
Oh, and the heroes of the article calling out for more funds happen to be Democrats only, despite congressional Republicans previously trying to replenish the same funds. Why is it that only Senate Democrats are given any credit despite those same politicians blocking the $2.2 trillion CARES Act for five business days, costing potentially hundreds of lost jobs last month?
The point is that if the Washington Post wanted to publish that article under the opinion section, that would be appropriate. I have authored op-eds that had similar framing, but since it’s an opinion, that’s fine. But this isn’t news. It’s gaslighting.
This is just the most recent example of “opinion” framed as “news”. That article read like an opinion article with quotes. If it was a real, factual article, it would’ve primarily featured the fallings of the PPP, why the money was given to major chains and what is being done about it. Instead of framing it as a misstep by one political side, let the readers decide that for themselves instead of doing that for them.
During my junior year of college, a professor of mine showed a documentary about indigenous people losing their homes to climate change. The documentary showed testimony of the people, and pointed out how fossil-fuel companies are at fault. When the professor asked for suggestions, despite agreeing with the overall premise myself, I suggested that the director ask fossil-fuel executives about the impact of their company on the climate, and ask what they can do about it, putting all perspectives and details on the table.
A fellow classmate responded by saying they really liked the documentary and that it showed the fault of fossil-fuel industries. I responded with a follow-up suggestion that fossil-fuel executives should be given a chance to explain themselves. The classmate responded, “Why? We know what they’re doing is wrong. It doesn’t matter what they say.”
These instances of peers stating that we don’t need to look at all perspectives and the overall disinterest of digging deeper has left me worried about the future of journalism. Journalism is already one-sided enough as it is. Do we really need more?
It’s not popular for a fellow journalist, such as myself, to complain about the shortcomings of journalists, but there is a reason why public trust in journalism is negative, and convincing oneself that it’s the fault of President Donald Trump won’t make it go away. That low number will stay when Trump leaves office.
Unless journalism can become about reporting facts instead of proving a point, the public trust in journalism, which was so robust, will be gone forever.