As the thinnest of apologies and mea culpas begin reluctantly dripping from the world’s leaders and media, one can only hope the tap is turned on fully, and soon.
They clearly do not see the insulting inadequacy of their paltry statements.
They seem to not understand that when the full breadth of their participation in perpetuating the false virus narrative is inevitably exposed, those among us not desiring their heads will be few.
Their time to make amends grows short. But can amends be made? Is it too late?
Over the last few months we’ve all watched the media as it spent every last shred of credibility. We already had so little faith in them that there wasn’t much in their accounts to draw down.
Too many incredibly important events have been falsified, ignored, glossed over, and spun six ways from Sunday that out of hand one can dismiss most mainstream reporting.
Trusting the news media on the virus has proven to be a terrible mistake, and the world now suffers greatly from that mistake. At this point, our former “watchdogs of government” should be deeply ashamed. They have completely failed at their stated mission.
This is supposed to be a calling, a civic duty, yet it has become the dream career for narcissists and a tool for political or social activists.
A permanent, always-on outlet for propaganda from all sides, always ready to deliver whatever message they are ordered to by governments or corporations.
Newsies are surely upset, defensive and angry at folks like me saying things like this. But I know what I’m talking about. You see, I used to be them.
I worked freelance and on staff, I did reporting and then photojournalism. I’ve covered everything from high school graduations to Gubernatorial elections, from youth football to natural disasters.
I covered the swine flu scare, the Occupy movement, the 2011 West Coast tsunami, I’ve been in the midst of civil violence and I know what tear gas is like.
I’ve ridden in screaming fire trucks and stared down the barrels of police guns. I’ve seen so much tragedy, trauma, and death that I still don’t sleep well eight years later.
My skepticism of the news media is only matched by my cynical view of their ethics.
The bone-deep embarrassment of their coverage of 9/11 and the 2003 Iraq War had barely faded by the time this idealistic, naive cub journo quit freelancing and landed staff jobs.
My inside view of the standards were shocking and soul-crushing.
It really was just about selling newspapers, ad space, and getting clicks. A paper I worked for would intentionally run a pot leaf logo visible above the fold not because the cannabis coverage was above-the-fold news but because newsstands would sell out that day.
In my witness press releases were published under a staff writer’s byline; ribbon-cuttings or giant check handoffs got priority over serious investigations.
Reporters refused to leave their desks to cover breaking news within walking distance, and all too often their reporting was shamelessly aimed at padding a portfolio or attacking a public official.
Yes, my boss knew I disagreed with her editorial and journalistic decisions. She also had the power to fire me and held that sword over my neck.
In hindsight I probably should have stood my ground and taken the firing but I also had been homeless in recent memory and living out of a car was the alternative. So I regrettably complied.
The fight to remain a truly ethical journalist in the face of corporate pressures amid a toxic industry was so difficult, frustrating and stressful that my Photo Editor used to vomit before work, while I would generally vomit on my way home.
He replaced a photo editor who couldn’t pick up a camera for a full year after his premature retirement due to burnout. I sold or gave away my photo equipment years ago and rarely open my camera app.
Despite the pressures to take the easy road and the limitations I was under, I agonized every day over whether my reportage was always as ethical as I could make it, at times to a fault and to my own detriment in the newsroom and in my personal life.
But I’m also keenly aware that my work, especially my photography, was used to support corporate media, yellow journalism, and filler / fluff pieces meant not to inform but merely sell papers and ad space.
I regret having been a part of it. My only intent was to tell the truth, not help a corporate media giant make money, suppress truth, and control the narrative.
And for my failings I am very sorry.
So, while we take up our pitchforks and torches and get ready to rightfully kill the beast, we also must recognize that reporters or photojournalists are human beings, and they, like us, are fallible.
They are just as capable of breaking under pressure, and right now they are under more pressure than most of them have ever faced in their careers.
Just like folks abusing store clerks merely trying to keep their jobs by enforcing their boss’ mask rules, my experience of being verbally abused on dozens of occasions for editorial decisions that I had nothing to do with were equally unfair and misdirected.
I for one am massively relieved to not be working in media right now. It would be a nightmare, especially for an anti-masker like me. In an already thankless job, even a little compassion would have gone a long way.
Even if it was a subject I was photographing saying “to each their own” in response to my unmasked face rather than insulting me personally. Not all members of all media have done us wrong. We must be precise in where we direct our rage, at which beasts we aim our pitchforks.
I know there are good people in the industry, people who follow in my footsteps, and if we wipe out all media we take them out as well.
If I were still employed in the news, I’d ask for just one more chance to get it right, to permanently fix what’s wrong. Despite my own rage and distaste for the mainstream media and even the small-town reporters following their lead, I feel that we should take a shot at extending an olive branch.
I hope a measure of compassion can be conjured by all but know this, news media: it will come at a steep price.
The price you must pay for our compassion is culpability and accountability. You simply must stop the propaganda. You must cease repeating unfounded statements, pushing false narratives, and failing to consider real science.
You must offer as much space to opposing or dissenting viewpoints as assenting ones. You must be completely transparent in your newsgathering methods and procedures.
You must remember that yours is a calling, not a career, and that fame, clicks, or money have no place in a journalist’s priorities. And the most important thing is that you admit you’ve done us all terribly wrong.
You must apologize.
It took a long time to build credibility with your readers or viewers, and yet nearly overnight you spent it all. It will take a similarly long time to rebuild our trust, to not automatically dismiss your headlines as false or your reportage as biased.
We will have to essentially start from scratch. It will take years, so the sooner you begin, the sooner you reach that goal.
We are angry at you, deeply angry, but we also do want news sources, reportage, journalism. We’d like to have you in our lives but you’ll have to prove we can trust you again.
That will take some time and you will have to work very hard every single day, and on every single story.
I do think that as long as the media are clearly working diligently and unceasingly to make amends, we can can slowly begin trusting them once again.
We can take it day by day and see how it goes. I do see a possible return of faith in the media but I feel it first requires their honest confession and sincere apology.
So I ask, nay, implore the media to take the first step. To issue apologies, take their lashes, stay accountable, and set about doing the ethical, honest job we are expecting of them.