I stood near the window where Lee Harvey Oswald took the life of President John F. Kennedy. I watched as protesters chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”
I listened as Hugh Aynesworth, an American journalist, author, and teacher, recalled playing basketball with dictator Fidel Castro, witnessing JFK’s assassination and the events that followed.
I went to Dallas, Texas, attended the 2017 National College Media Convention, and came back to Wyoming with a new respect for journalism. I found that my passion for this industry grows as I dive deeper into its depths.
In an age before cell phones and instant reporting with technology, journalists utilized the No. 2 pencil, a paper notebook and were conscious of the nearest telephone. Aynesworth and Bob Schieffer, an American television journalist, both used a phrase similar to, “Times were different back then,” when giving their speeches as keynote speakers at the convention.
After reflecting on Aynesworth’s and Schieffer’s addresses to future media professionals, I realized that both men spoke about how they are fearful for the future of the media industry, its reputation and its integrity.
That fear is mutual, and the greater question now is, “How will the media world fight ‘fake news’ or being labeled as ‘left’ or ‘right’?”
Having listened to the advice of various intelligent and diverse media professionals, I narrowed my answer to that question to three words: Passion, truth and respect.
Jay Hartwell, an award-winning reporter, advisor and professor at the University of Hawaii, had an hour-long session called “11 Lessons from a Life in Journalism.” One of his life lessons was labeled, “Find passion… passion takes time.”
Hartwell explained that one must find what drives them to pursue a career in media, whether it be investigative journalism or a videographer for National Geographic. Without passion, one may suffer in this industry, and that is why finding that passion and knowing how hard you are willing to push yourself is critical. Achieving one’s dream job in media will take an immense amount of dedication and patience.
Accepting the endurance one must have in order to achieve career success in the media industry will be challenging, but that person will discover they have a need to find the truth in this endless chaotic world, and determination to get the facts.
Schieffer explained that while technology has positively impacted the media industry, it has also had its own transgressions correlating with the accuracy of information.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and endless websites don’t require an accuracy check or a knowledgeable editor, but simply a call for an opinion, a version of what one thinks is the truth at the click of a button for the world to discover. Once a false narrative is set on social media or the internet, the truth rarely finds its way to the public.
Bob Barker and Willie Nelson can only die so many times.
Underneath passion and truth I believe lies one of the most imperative and necessary elements in media that is too often forgotten, and that is respect.
Possibly as far back as middle school, people pursuing careers in media were given opportunities to announce morning events on the intercom, report on the county fair or broadcast the regional basketball tournament. The key word in that sentence is opportunity.
Men and women have fought and died for hundreds of years, in devastating wars and persistent protests, to have the luxury of opportunity. In 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) listed North Korea as the most media censored country in the world. To this day, North Korea upholds communist ideals in which the government controls the media. And when a government controls the media, it’s people are subject to lies and are without voice.
As a person who exercises their right to freedom of speech on a daily basis, I will say that I see the First Amendment of the US Constitution presently being taken for granted. Don’t believe me? Watch or read the different national media organizations as they tear each other apart over accusations of “fake news” and covering news based on bias instead of fact.
Still don’t believe me? Research Libya, Syria, Cuba or Burma, and you will find citizens risking arrest (and in some cases death) for listening, reading or reporting to other publications besides the government.
The CPJ published an article in Oct. 2016 that said Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabaab resides, for the second year in a row is allegedly held most accountable for a majority of journalists murders. The Islamic State had reportedly murdered six journalists that year, according to the CPJ.
I, for one, am grateful to have the freedom to write this column and know that I can call out both my country and the media for its flaws, without the fear of persecution. The media’s reputation has been on the rocks in recent years, and in order to gain that trust back we need to regain respect and gratitude for our own profession.
The Society of Professional Journalists preamble says, “… public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” To practice the First Amendment rights means striving for accuracy and seeking the truth that reflects the principles that the Founding Fathers envisioned to keep the US from total government control.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter,” President George Washington said.
Report the facts, do the research and uphold the values of a journalist to be honest and unbiased. Do not write out of spite or out of hate to prove a point.
Write and report because it is your job to inform the public of information, and continue to educate yourself on ethical journalism to set an example for generations to come.