Stop villainizing journalists, start reading the news

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

It’s no secret the media gets a bad rap these days. There seems to be a constant online murmur about how inaccurate, negative and offensive the news and journalists are. Now, consider it for a second: Are you one of the voices joining in?

If you find yourself to be a member of this “journalist hate club,” you may want to reframe your perspective. When was the last time you actually went to a news site, clicked on a story (not just glanced at the headline) and read the story from start to finish? Can you name even three of these journalists who are putting out the so-called fake, negative and offensive news?

If your realization is that you really don’t know all that much about journalism, don’t worry — you’re not the only one. Mob mentality spreads like fire on the internet, and it’s all too easy to connect the negativity and offensiveness of what’s happening in our world to the source that reports it. But we ask you, please, don’t shoot the messenger.

In reality, journalists generally just want to do their job and do it well, reporting the facts of a situation to their audience. There’s even a Journalism Code of Ethics most newspapers enforce to make sure their writers stay accurate and ethical with the content they submit. In other words, journalists aren’t out to spread fake news.

Also, be mindful of how dangerous and highly criticized this profession is. Being able to obtain and report the truth often comes with a cost, sometimes even a target. Take the journalists in Gaza, for example. They have been risking their lives every day in order to get the news of the war out, and 95 of them have died in the process.

This reality proves there are people in the world who don’t want the public to know certain truths, and journalists are directly combating these forces in order to provide you with the privilege of knowing them. Also, consider how not every person is willing to die for the mission of their job, which goes to show how committed and passionate journalists often are.

Think about it: If journalists didn’t exist, where would you be getting your news from? Many young adults would suggest social media as an alternative, as half of Americans aged 18-29 claim they nearly always trust social media to present them with reliable news.

But this form of communication can only go so far in terms of reliability, considering all the complex issues skilled and practiced journalists cover. Besides, posts on platforms like Instagram and TikTok often portray a distorted version of the story, even more so than you may believe journalists give. That’s not “news”; that’s just gossip, and it only contributes to the unchecked spread of online misinformation.

Not to mention, the recent additions of AI images, footage and deep fakes run rampant on social media platforms, compared to news sites that tend to not allow any content that has been tampered with to be published. So, if you are getting your news from sources like Facebook and TikTok, you should not be criticizing journalists.

This isn’t to say that distrust toward the media is completely implausible. There are the occasional news sites, stations and journalists that tend to lean more toward one side of the political spectrum than the other and avoid reporting all sides of the story, which only serves to breach the trust of audiences and allow for bias. There have also been instances here and there of journalists reporting false information, plagiarizing their work and behaving outright carelessly on live television.

In turn, the next generation of journalists needs to be the change to combat the distrust among audiences. Report all sides of the story, and report them with care and empathy.

Readers, listeners, viewers … do the same. Don’t take the easy route and happen upon your news as you scroll through social media. Take the time to read and understand how journalism works, and get your news from reliable sources. This might mean going out of your comfort zone by reading different outlets instead of just sticking to the one you’ve always followed.

Ultimately, just because journalists are often the bearers of rather unfortunate and even uncomfortable news doesn’t mean we’re the villains to be blamed. That is a reflection of the fallen and broken world we live in. It’s our job as writers, editors, photographers and reporters/anchors to be watchdogs for the public and sincerely inform you of what’s going on in the world, whether it’s pleasant or not.

So, instead of opening the New York Times games every morning or during class, try reading a few stories while you’re at it.