Google “public opinion of journalists” and the first hit you get is “respect for American media in decline.”
Journalists have many different reputations, but the most common is that they are the “bad guys.” People see us journalists as people who are digging only to find bad or hurtful information. This could not be farther from the truth.
One of the problems is the presence of tabloid papers and magazines. By definition, a tabloid is different from a normal newspaper being that it is dominated by photos and more scandalous stories about famous people and news that is not very serious. Most of these papers and magazines tear people down by fabricating lies and twisting the truth to make it sound more appealing.
While our digging to write hard new stories does unearth information that can be negative, it is not because we are specifically looking for it. We are searching for facts and for information that is true to the story we are working on. We have our ways of gathering information we need. When we conduct interviews, we are not looking to evoke an unwanted emotion or to cause our sources to want to withhold information.
We genuinely want to get to know our sources so that they know they can trust us and know that we just want the facts. We want to inform the public of news and events that are happening around it. In order to attain these facts, we need our sources to cooperate with us, even if they have to give us information they do not want the public to know.
Many of these tabloids contain invalid information and false accusations. Because of this, it is disappointing that the writers of such papers are considered journalists. This, to me, give news journalists a bad reputation. Even though we are not trying to exploit people, we still want the public to have the information to create their own opinions of the story.
Sources can be very unwilling, though. There have been incidents when journalists have violated their respective news outlets’ code of ethics. An example of this was when a New York Times reporter, Charlie Savage, authored a false story about a gun-trafficking investigation. This was caused by a reporter not researching and interviewing to discover the facts from the people involved.
Richard Nixon was a prime example of someone who hated the media and journalists. He thought that they were just out to get him and would never tell the truth or the good things about him. When talking on a news show, he would never give the audience what they wanted. Compared to John. F. Kennedy, who gave his people what they wanted, Nixon always refused to wear clothing suitable for television.
He thought the media was out to get him. In his series of debates against JFK, Nixon had suffered a knee injury and could not appear on television. The voters that watched the television part of the debate favored JFK, while the people who listened to the debate on the radio favored Nixon.
I think that the public needs to take a closer look at what journalists do. We are not here to hurt you. We just want to keep the public informed and knowledgeable about things happening around their world.
Madison Miller is a senior journalism and film and digital media double major from Prosper. She is a reporter and regular columnist for the Lariat.