We are NOT the Enemy

It has been another long few weeks for us here and I am remiss in my posts. 2021 is setting up to be another interesting year with more work for SDL and a new vigor for what we do, but today I’d like to talk about my day job.

As most of you know I work in TV news, and it seems that recently it means that many label me and my colleagues as “the enemy.” I’ve grown weary of the “press as the enemy” trope. I was weary last week when traitorous rioters attempted to overthrow the legislative branch of government, I am weary from never ending election coverage because we are always in an election year it seems, I am weary rom covering Coronavirus, deaths, school shootings, protests of all stripes, wildfires, natural disasters, hurricanes, Jeffrey Epstein, murder, mayhem and the like, but I am MOST weary that we are living in a time in which even my friends and family make jokes, statements on social media, or jabs to my face that the “media lies” or that we somehow “collude to control” society. It seems they forget the human entity involved in producing news, or perhaps they don’t care that someone they claim to care about is one of the same people they claim is a liar.

No doubt, I have worked for some news outlets that have been factually incorrect (all of them) and some that have been purposefully misleading (never on NEWS programming) and some that have printed or released information that had a bit too much opinion for my taste, or who have used their platform for grandstanding.  But overall the news organizations I have worked for are filled with people who are trying to report the facts, they are educated in journalism and journalistic ethics and they come to work every day with a desire to report the news because they believe that it is important to have an informed electorate and an informed world.

I see the “hot take” that “journalists weren’t elected by anyone” pretty often. No, journalists and media workers were not elected by anyone, nor were judges, doctors, or police officers, but this doesn’t make anyone question these other professions integrity. Journalists are not part of the government, but the idea of the fourth estate has long been a standard in American life, the first newspaper in America was published while we were still being ruled by the British government. ‘Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick’ was published in Boston in September of 1690, the hope was to print a monthly newsletter. After only four days, because it was critical of the British government and in particular the British Army’s conduct in the French and Indian War, it was shut down and censored by the Governor and British council.

None of this is to say that I don’t sometimes disagree with my colleagues, in fact I often disagree with my colleagues. Emotions can get the better of even the best journalists and they may begin to editorialize. But I know of none who hold the title of anchor, reporter, or correspondent who are not trained in their field and do not strive to give an accurate description and context of each day’s events, and who are not afraid to ask questions on subjects of which they are not an expert. They are additionally, surrounded by other journalists, producers, and media professionals who hold themselves to similar standards. At my current place of work, our standards and practices require two independent verifications before something is considered “reportable.” Sometimes this means we don’t report on an item as quickly as other news outlets, but it often means we are more accurate.

Unlike police officers, media professionals don’t go to work each day thinking they may be in danger, but those teams that are embedded in war zones, those who work in high profile locations or with high profile people, those who get sent to developing situations- be they riots, natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks do know they are adjacent to danger. Each time secret service does a sweep of a studio because a protectee is coming to the station to talk, each time the armed personal security of a media personality who has had death threats against them walks past us, we are reminded that we too are sometimes in danger, and we also know that the priority of the Army unit an embed works with, the secret service, and the security guards is to complete their mission, not to protect us. So, when there are cries that the “media is the enemy” that “journalists are soft targets” please remember that no, we weren’t elected but we are serving you, that we have been a part of the fabric of this country since before we were a country, and disagreement shouldn’t mean disrespect and attacks. By all means, it is your choice to change the channel or to put down the newspaper, so ELECT to do that.

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