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No News Is Not Good News

Recent events around the world have me contemplating the role of journalism in our society. I have a degree in journalism, and though I don’t currently work in that field, I am proud of my education. My coursework and experience in journalism taught me to disseminate information in a new way. It fed my curiosity and improved my writing. Most of all, it taught me the value of free speech.

There are news outlets who get it wrong, but there are also news outlets that get it right a lot of the time. I seem to be on the defensive a lot these days—defending the decisions of journalists when their coverage of an event or their judgment is questioned, or assuring someone that not all journalists are evil, just because of one rotten apple.

Being a journalist—whether you are reporter, editor, photographer or chief of staff—is a lot of responsibility. A journalist’s job is to educate the public about issues and events that affect their daily lives. When you read a piece in the newspaper or watch a segment of broadcast news, it is not the work of one person. News is a collaboration. Journalists make phone calls and do extensive research. They look for information relevant to the story to give the public the whole picture. Journalists are meant to serve the public interest while following the laws and being ethically responsible.

News should not represent the popular opinion, or tell readers/viewers only what they want to hear. The news is uncomfortable. The truth is often dirty and unsatisfying. News can break your heart, and it can make it sing, but it should ultimately inform.

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.
— Henry Steele Commager

Unfortunately, every news outlet is not held to the same standards, and coverage of certain events are distorted and inconsistent. This is when the public needs to be vigilant. We can’t rely on one single source for news, because that one source doesn’t always get it right. Read an article in your favorite newspaper and then read about the subject again somewhere else. Watch your favorite nightly news anchor tell you what you need to know for the week, and then find out for yourself, through other news sources, if that’s really all you need to know. There is no excuse these days for not being informed.  

I am often unimpressed and disappointed with how a news story is covered or not covered, but I am grateful to have a free press in this country. I am grateful to have the information available to me about laws before the House of Representatives, or what my mayor is doing to improve my city. I am grateful to know the weekly weather forecast and that a Washington Post reporter has returned to his family after being held prisoner in a foreign country. I am grateful to know Derek Fisher is pushing Carmelo Anthony to be a better player and teammate. I am even grateful to know One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson became a father.

I suppose this whole post is a plea more than anything. I urge you to stay informed. Pick up a newspaper, scroll through the online news sites, and watch your local and national broadcasts. You don’t have to overload yourself. Scroll the headlines and read what makes sense to your life. I think you will find there is a lot out there for you. Don’t limit yourself to one news source, be discerning and get information from different sources. Most importantly- talk about it. Express your opinions and listen to the opinions of others. Be curious.

A well informed public opinion is essential to the growth of political and social awareness. Only he who is informed can comment intelligently on his nation’s development and only by such comments can errors be corrected and progress stimulated
— Haile Selassie