It seems when something goes wrong in this world of ours, most people blame one of several things: Terrorism, guns or the media.
One needs only to look as far as Facebook to see uneducated rants and copycat comments going on and on about the media sensationalizing events, making criminals famous and exposing children to violence and other acts by the scum of mankind.
Our three primary arguments are:
1. If members of the public are familiar enough with media coverage to criticize it, clearly they’ve been watching, reading or listening just as much as anyone else.
2. Many of the media’s viewing, reading and listening audiences want to learn more about a tragic event, why it happened and who was behind it. If no one cared, we as the media would have no reason to report on it. But people do care, so we report.
3. It is unequivocally not our responsibility to determine what other people’s children are exposed to. It is the parents’ responsibility. If anyone of any age wishes to avoid media coverage of violence, tragedy or death, they need only turn off the television, radio, Internet or put down the newspaper. We are not pushing our coverage on them. We are there for the readers, listeners and viewers who want to know.
Of which, there are many. Those who point a finger our way and call us sensationalists are often the first to complain when they feel other event coverage is lacking.
Are there indecent, insensitive journalists and news outlets out there? Absolutely. In every profession, there are at least a handful of workers whose suck factor is off the charts. But it behooves us all to remember these few individuals do not speak for, nor represent, the majority.
And the majority of journalists seek the truth. We are human. We feel pain and sorrow when an eight-year-old boy is killed in a bombing, when dozens die in a massacre or when hundreds or thousands perish in a natural disaster. We have discovered how to capitalize on our ability to help people, not prey on them. We are devoted to our positions. We want to do fair and thorough work, not only for ourselves, but for all involved.
We are the same people who report the sports scores, where to find aid in an emergency, new businesses strengthening a community’s economy, and good deeds by local individuals or community groups. But when something bad happens, somehow a switch in perspective flips and we become the bad guys.
Our critics have no idea how often sources come to us for help in sharing a story, good or bad, instead of the other way around. They couldn’t know the rapport we work every day to develop and maintain with a community of any size. It wouldn’t occur to them how often we stand outside the police tape shooting pictures through teary eyes, or how often we listen with heavy hearts when an interviewee pours out a difficult story.
So why do we do it? It’s our job. The good far outweighs the bad. We can work, live and sleep with a clear conscience knowing we did our best and we did it right, even when the very people we work to serve forget that.