Journalists have a front-row seat to the best impromptu performances life has to offer. They are responsible for conveying the world’s normal and abnormal happenings to the public in an objective way, through the clearcut reporting of facts. They keep breakers of promises accountable for their actions in a way that does not blame; rather, their work respectably informs.
Or at least, that’s what journalists are supposed to do. The entire ethical standard of objectivity and leaving out personal opinions in journalism was flushed down the toilet long ago. With the Boston Marathon breaking news from the week of April 15, this burying of media ethics reached new lows in my eyes. (Just for the record, bloggers can be opinionated.)
After searching my archive to find the post I linked above in parenthesis, I’m laughing in my head. I wrote “A New(s) Writing Style” in September 2011, while enrolled in my first journalism class called News Reporting and Writing. The post is about how news reporters are to write objectively, even leaving out words like “unfortunately” and “tragic,” unless directly quoting a source. This in no way applies only to print, but to broadcast journalism, too. Imagine that–the first thing I learned as a journalism student was the importance of reporting real facts, and only the facts. No opinions allowed in a news report.
To clarify–as if this needs any clarification at all–calling three college students stupid and idiotic, and labeling them “from the school of absolute morons” is an opinion. Wednesday afternoon, prior to a court hearing for three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends, CNN reporters spoke to their legal analyst on air, requesting his thoughts on the young men’s alleged involvement in the “obstruction of justice.” He used the word stupid to describe their actions–okay fine. He isn’t a journalist; he can say what he wants.
Those CNN reporters jumped on the analyst’s use of the word the way I jump on the opportunity to win Knicks tickets. One reporter acknowledged she was using the analyst’s word “stupid” after the call. Soon after however, the on-air reporters adopted the word as their own, in addition to obvious eye-rollings, extremely suggestive tones of voice, and the intelligent additions of “idiots” and “from the school of absolute morons” to their vocabulary.
I was shaking my head so much I thought it would fall off.
The disgraceful journalism practiced by big-name outlets is infuriating–and that’s a horrible understatement. I’ve had dreams on numerous nights for the past two weeks because my mind has become so obsessed with the garbage coverage. Wednesday’s CNN report was not the only poop in the media regarding the Boston Marathon story–I could write a book and deliver an at least three-hour-long speech on the disgusting practices by journalists with regards to Boston alone.
I knew I wasn’t the only one angered by the coverage, as my friends and cousins couldn’t stop shaking their heads either. But they were all Muslim girls of college age. I wanted to know if the disappointment and outrage expanded beyond my household and friend circle.
I asked my media professor on our last day of class Thursday afternoon what he thought of the Boston Marathon coverage. He, along with my classmates, agreed it was over-the-top, to put it mercifully. When I told him about the reporters calling suspects stupid, idiotic, and morons, he looked down and shook his head, not wanting to believe the truth in my statement.
I was reassured though, after handing in my last assignment to the professor who taught me so much in Media Ethics and Law last semester and Mass Media Management this semester. I was reassured not only because he agreed with me, but because my classmates–fellow journalism students–agreed too. We’re the ones graduating in a little over two weeks and next fall and next spring. We’re the ones who will apply the forgotten sacred rules we learned in Media Ethics and Law because we’re not about to let reporters “from the school of absolute morons” degrade and stomp on us. We’re the young adults passionate and prepared to allow real journalism to fulfill its responsibilities once again.
Get ready, because we’re about to tell it like it is.