Not all media are the same

February 1, 2017 01:30

By Melissa Luck, RTDNA Contributor

I'm sorry if I crept into your Facebook feed this week.

A "rant" I posted Sunday night has taken on a life of its own, shared on Facebook (and, Twitter. And, LinkedIn) by journalists and other supporters of our industry. It has resonated, it seems, with journalists nationwide who are clearly trying to send a message to their family and friends: not all media is the same and we're not part of a vast conspiracy to promote one candidate or political view or another.

Here's what I wrote:
If you want to criticize "the media" please be specific. Was it cable news? Was it a blogger? Was it a guy on Twitter? Was it one specific reporter?

"The media" is not a thing. That's a broad generalization. There is no conspiracy by trained journalists to fool you or trick you into believing something is not true. Journalists are individual people, media outlets are individual entities. We are your neighbors, nieces, friends, moms, sisters, etc. (We're also not organized enough for vast conspiracy.)

You have to be more vigilant than ever about where you get your information. Make sure it's from a source or publication you've actually heard of before. If it sounds strange or outrageous, check another source. If someone says "I heard..." and you repeat it without seeing it from a reliable source, you're the one spreading fake news, not the media.

Finally, if you want the truth and want those in power held accountable, support local journalism. And if you want resources on how to fact check and find info, I'm more than happy to help.

Also: we aren't "elites." Ask a journalist how much money they make, especially if you live in a small town.)

I wrote the note on my phone while putting my eight-year old son to bed. I had seen one too many posts from others blaming "the media" for everything from election results to racial tensions in America. I thought my friends and family might read it and maybe engage in a debate over its merits. I did not expect what would happen next.

The post has been shared hundreds of times, on personal Facebook pages and private groups for journalists. Why? A journalist in one of those private groups probably summed it up best. She wrote, "[sending] this in a group text to my parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, etc."

Many of us, it seems, are at our wits end. Misunderstanding the role of journalists is nothing new, of course, but the current political climate has seemingly upped the ante for criticism. And, when our president publicly declares he's at war with the media, it seems to add fuel to a long-smoldering fire.

So, why do so many journalists feel compelled to clarify the role of "media" in America?

"[The criticism we've seen] is not coming from strangers, but from people you know and, perhaps, least suspect," said Katie Raml, an anchor at KNXV-TV in Phoenix. "Most importantly, it attacks our integrity - arguably the most important trait in our industry. And, for most of us, this is not a job, but a calling. Long hours, proximity to dangerous situations and people, and constant public scrutiny all while away from our families, demands boundless commitment."

While shared and favorited by journalists across the country, my post has also invited intense criticism. I've been insulted this week in ways I never thought possible by people committed to their idea that we are all part of a conspiracy. I've learned that telling doubters that its simply not true is an exercise in futility. But, I have taken to heart that several commenters have urged me and other journalists to be vigilant ourselves and to police the "bad apples" in our basket. That's something we can all agree would help our overall credibility in the long run.

If you shared or re-posted my rant this week, thank you. Thank you for helping your friends and family, at least, understand that while our words matter, theirs matter, too. Journalists are human beings, operating individually or in our own organizations. And, unless there's free pizza, I can't see us all getting together for the conspiracy planning meeting anyway.

Melissa Luck is Assistant News Director at KXLY-TV in Spokane, WA