Funny how some things are cyclical. Again, I’m hearing reporters question whether or not there’s money to be made in journalism. And again, I’m wondering why reporters feel the need to undermine themselves. Why not just come up with an explanation for why your job is essential to our democracy? Why not say something like this?
Journalists are a lot like teachers. In any other society, they’d be highly paid and highly trained. They’d be the best we’ve got, because they’re the ones educating us and keep us informed.
But we don’t live in one of those societies right now. In America, teachers aren’t highly paid, and journalists wish they had the kind of financial security that teachers have. We live in a society that places less value on information, because it’s too easily accessible. The truth can be fudged. The facts can be altered. This is the first democratic society that doesn’t see legitimate, verified information as important to its existence.
Don’t believe me? Turn on cable news for a minute. That’s all you’ll need.
Right now, Wikileaks is releasing thousands of pages of information about what the United States government is doing. But even the news organizations reporting about it can’t get simple details right, and others news organizations are spending time openly attacking transparency. The stories will be easily available, but they won’t be read. (Except, maybe, for the one about the wild wedding in Russia. It’s very TMZ.)
Our society is supposed to be built on being highly informed. We’ve got apps that tell us where to save $.03 on gasoline, but we don’t have nearly the same instinct to seek out truth. How can we live in an interconnected world that sees facts as irrelevant?
So the question is: Do you want to live in a society that does value truth? Because good reporting is just like everything else in our society: if you value it, you’re going to have to pay for it.