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My Take

Decline in journalism

Mark McGee
Posted 12/17/22

I never thought I would say I was ashamed of being part of the media, but I am.

I have been paid to write for public consumption since I was 17 years old. I have always enjoyed the field I …

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My Take

Decline in journalism

Posted

I never thought I would say I was ashamed of being part of the media, but I am.

I have been paid to write for public consumption since I was 17 years old. I have always enjoyed the field I eventually chose to spend my life in, but at the age of 65 I have to admit I now understand why journalism is one of the most disliked professions.

My, oh, my how the rules have changed.

It used to be that news stories were just that – news. It was all about “the five W’s”…who, what, when, where and why and one “H”, how? There was no room for even the hint of opinion in a news story. As a reporter you were expected to present both sides of a story fairly. Quotes from all sides were sought. I used to rate how well I had done my job by whether or not both sides were mad at me.

Opinion was reserved for the editorial or opinion page. Sometimes a front-page editorial was required, but it was always clearly marked as an editorial.

The job of a journalist should be pretty simple in many ways. Information is obtained and determined to be valid or not. Sources help with the validation process. Facts are gathered and a story can then be written.

Today many in the media, and there are exceptions to this, seize on information without really trying to verify whether the facts are true or not. This is especially the case if the story helps further the agenda of the reporter and/or the medium in which the story is published.

Some journalists follow the Mark Twain quote, “get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please”.

I don’t know who said this but as a reporter I have always followed this maxim, “Know people are lying to you. Just don’t let them know you know.”

One person I covered in athletics was a notorious liar. He would go to great efforts to track me down and give me false information. When I left sports coverage in Nashville that person told me he always could tell I knew he was lying by the way I wrote a story.

Working during high school for Bo Melson, the late Times-Gazette sports editor and police reporter, I learned the importance of getting the facts correct. No one is perfect, but I have always tried my best to get the facts right and to quote people accurately.

But in this age of the Internet, journalism ethics are out the window. Reporting is the new version of the wild, wild west with anyone with a phone or computer possessing the ability to call themselves a journalist.

Misinformation often replaces real information. It is scary to know approximately 70 percent of users get their news from Twitter posts.

It used to be the role of the press was to be a watchdog. In this present time there is a lot of bark, but very little bite.

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  • Rocky Bynum

    Mark thanks for your journalist work and acheivements. And you are so correct with this article.

    Thursday, December 22, 2022 Report this