Recent thoughts on journalism, part 3

Hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, coverage of that tragedy coincided all too well with my recent posts on journalism.

Millions of words have already been written about what happened, so I simply want to leave you with this:

“There’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.”

To close out this series of posts, I wanted to talk about one last aspect of modern-day journalism: interaction.

In the old days, news was a one-way street. Reporters gathered the information — interviews, research, photos/audio/video — and then put out the stories. We read them. The end.

Well, I guess if you really wanted to respond, you could write a letter to the editor.

But nowadays we are not limited to that kind of silent consumption. We can be contributors, in a variety of ways. For better or worse. (Maybe both.)

– Thanks to the proliferation of digital cameras, smart phones, etc., it’s easier than ever to participate in “common man reporting,” as I called it earlier. We can gather the information now — interview, research, photos/audio/video. All at the touch of a button.

– Thanks to the internet, we can also publish the stories ourselves. Via Facebook, Twitter, email, personal sites, and more. The whole web is like a 24/7 broadcast, in a way, and each of us has our own channel, if we want it.

– And even if we don’t want to do any of that, we can still hold a microphone to our virtual mouths. Comments are like our generation’s letters to the editor. Only they tend to be a lot uglier, with worse spelling and more all caps.

In theory, I’m glad that everyone can have a voice. Because voice is power, voice is vital. Too many bad things have happened throughout history when people were denied their rightful voices.

But part of me wonders why some individuals feel the need to air such vile and vicious thoughts online. Why are they clamoring for their meanness to be heard, to be validated? And what do they think it adds to the news?

Maybe we all need to learn how to sit quietly within our own minds.

(And some people definitely need to be taught manners and common decency. Sadly, arguing or engaging with those people online is pointless — counterproductive, even.)

Anyway. Those are my thoughts. That’s my voice, being shared on my channel. For better or worse. Maybe both.

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6 Comments

  1. It is such a different world. I don’t know what to make of social media and the ability for anyone to say anything. It scares me, a little. I try not to think of it as journalism, because nothing seems to be based on fact anymore. Just opinion.

  2. Another side to this that I find fascinating is the interaction between the established media and the public … instead of reporters/anchors existing in a bubble, so to speak, social media gives them the opportunity to really discuss issues with their audience. I don’t know if it’s true everywhere, but in Philadelphia that’s definitely impacted the way we get our news. This article sums it up really well: http://articles.philly.com/2013-04-29/news/38880393_1_jim-gardner-mendte-social-media.

  3. It isn’t just with the Boston bombings, but I’ve been wondering this a lot lately too. Why do people feel the need to be hostile to complete strangers on the internets? Were people always so hostile and the internet boom just gives them an outlet to express it and channel it, or has social media and the internet given us more of a reason to be hostile?

  4. “But part of me wonders why some individuals feel the need to air such vile and vicious thoughts online.”

    What are you referring to, specifically? I haven’t witnessed any of these vicious and vile thoughts regarding the Boston Marathon bombings. Are they derogatory remarks about Muslims? I’m totally in the dark on this. Maybe I should stop reading the NY Times :)

  5. Juliann-
    I don’t think comments are journalism, but I do think the definition of journalism is evolving in the era of “democratic” technology.

    Shari-
    Great piece, and I agree with much of it. We don’t want people to become less professional when they’re on the job; but we want to see their personal side through social media. And I think that’s true of everyone, not just reporters.

    Margot-
    I think it’s a little of both: The internet allows some people to share the negative thoughts/feelings they’ve always had; and then the “horde” mentality kicks in, and other people join in.

    Meghan-
    I wasn’t referring only/specifically to the Boston bombings, but yes, there definitely WERE racist and ignorant remarks made about Muslims, Chechans, and even Czechs (because people were confused). Sigh.

  6. Well, anyone who confuses Chechens with Czechs is obviously ignorant!

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