Journalists: You Need to Do Your Job!

It’s really past time for the American press to do their goddamn job, at least when it comes to politics. The American electorate needs a press that informs us properly, so we can know the things we need to know.

What do we need to know? A lot of things, but before I start with that list, let me tell you what we do NOT need…

  • We do not need you to feed us the “news” the readers and viewers tell you we want to know about. You are the journalists. YOU are supposed to report on things that happen, not feed us full of gossip and rumors.
  • We do not need elections and politics covered the same way announcers call the play-by-play in a football or basketball game.
  • We do not need to hear a constant rehash of the past, unless it is directly relevant to today. For instance, the current rehash of the Clinton-Lewinsky matter is completely unnecessary in today’s world. And seriously; no one gives a rat’s ass about Hillary’s goddamn emails. They shouldn’t have gotten so much press two years ago; now, it’s especially insane.
  • We do not need “all sides” of every issue. We don’t need an array of opinions, we just need facts. If your idea of “fairness” includes every side of every issue, you miss two concepts here. Number one, your job is not “fairness.” Also, you increase the likelihood that your story will be more fact-free.
  • We do not need journalism that reports what someone important said, unless that journalism also includes context and seeks to correct the record, where necessary.

By listing everything the public does NOT need from journalists, it’s easy to come up with a list of things we DO need from our press. Unfortunately, we are largely not getting most of that. It’s time for that to change.

  • We need a lot more news programming and a lot less opinion. Right now, all cable news channels inundate us with almost 24 hours of opinions, which can sometimes include facts, but which are not factual in and of themselves.
  • We need editors to do their damn jobs. Again, we need more news and information and we need a lot less of editors telling us what they think we want to know. Last weekend, USA Today ran an op-ed written by the lying asshole sitting in the White House right now and, as usual, the piece was virtually devoid of facts and crammed full of lies, according to a Washington Post fact check. No news organization should publish anything that cannot pass a fact check, no matter who writes it.
  • Along the same lines, we need more journalists to correct the record on the fly. When they are interviewing a newsmaker, especially a politician, and that newsmaker says something that is provably false, it should be the journalist’s job to correct the record. If the interview is live, the corrections should be made as soon as possible after, if not in real time. If it’s taped or printed, the corrections should be included.
  • We need journalists to start using the word “lie” when appropriate. No more euphemisms, just to show us how erudite you are.
  • We need journalists who tell the story and leave themselves out of it. It doesn’t matter what you think. Just report the facts.
  • We need more investigative reporting and we need journalists to get the whole story, without worrying about the “scoop.” In this day and age, no one remembers who came up with the story first, but we do remember who got it wrong.
  • We need less lazy journalism. We need journalists who will go after the story and the details and provide actual context. Context is the key to all journalism. This is the problem with Wikileaks. Journalists dropping documents on them and guessing their meaning is not actually journalism. Showing us a document from an NSA computer is only useful if the journalist consults experts to tell us what the document means.
  • We need more news in our news. We need journalists to follow corrupt practices and not be distracted by the shiny keys politicians and their followers always throw out there for that purpose.

That means sticking to facts. What a politician has to say about something is only news if it’s based on fact. The Orange Toddler’s Twitter feed is not news. The fact that Mitch McConnell finds the deficit “troublesome” is only news if you point out that his party passed the law that caused it and if you mention that he also wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. And their intention to cut those is only news if you also mention the fact that neither of those programs has added a single penny to the deficit.

People need to know that everything they see on the news is true and verified because we all need to know everything we need to know to make an informed decision regarding voting. It’s not just about how a candidate stands on issues, either; these days, it’s about knowing which politicians and parties are putting the country ahead of their party or their ideology.

Also published on Medium.

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