I find it a bit disheartening when people deride the media and lump all outlets together. Thanks to the first amendment, we have the most open media in the world, and I don’t think anyone would want to lose that.
Yes, media outlets, like everything else, have their problems. No one and no thing is perfect. And I can assure you that no mainstream media outlet of any repute starts its day wondering how it can create “fake news” and bring down elected officials. It just isn’t done. I know this from my experience as a journalist — now retired — with nearly 30 years in.
I think it’s important that we realize exactly what the media is. Many people consider the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN or FOX News “The Media.” And, depending on your political bent, those outlets are either good things or bad things.
Many believe the ones they dislike are out to destroy America, while others praise the ones they like for bringing positive information to their doorsteps, TV sets or computer screens.
And that’s OK. It’s as it should be. America would be a pretty dull place if we all agreed on everything.
Journalists are America’s eyes and ears when it comes to watching over our government and performing oversight that some officials prefer not to do.
But the media is more than that. It’s where we get basic information, including why the police were at a certain house late at night, why the freeway is closed and who won the local spelling bee.
Small, local newspapers are a major part of the media and a staple of our democracy. In fact, I would suggest that these operations are the most important news outlets we have in this country.
These papers are where everyday people can express their opinions on the editorial pages through letters and guest columns; it’s where we find out how our local school sports teams are doing, and where we can read local obituaries and find out which of our neighbors have died.
I believe I can speak to this because of my experience in local news. I have spent countless hours sitting in all sorts of meetings – city council, school board, county supervisor and other smaller boards.
I have seen dedicated elected officials — just regular folk, most of them — put in considerable time in these long, drawn-out sessions only to be criticized and pilloried for their work. (And I never fully understood why they did it.)
The public is not very forgiving when it comes to its elected officials.
But then we wouldn’t know about any of this if not for local media.
People don’t have to like what the media does or how it does it. And we in the media know and understand that. I know no journalist who went into the field to be loved.
What drives local journalists is a healthy curiosity and a desire to keep the public informed. It’s not always an easy job, and, to be honest, it not the highest-paying profession either. But it can be extremely satisfying.
I don’t know how many times people have thanked me for recognizing their good works in stories I did about them. Or how appreciative parents have been when I wrote a positive story about something their child did.
My point here is to remind people that “The Media” is not America’s Big Bad Wolf, but a necessary part of our democracy, and that we would be in pretty bad shape without it.