Six things the Mainstream News Media Can Do to Win Back Our Respect
1. Stop repeating outrageous claims and charges. Just because you have to fill the news hole in a 24-hour cycle doesn’t mean we want to hear those same sordid claims over and over. Truth is, you only repeat them so you can freely repeat the offensive and salacious words. For example, the official said, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.” There was nothing new to warrant that repetition and no reason to repeat those statements for three days running. Stop it.
2. Stop promoting the cult of celebrity. Why is CNN, CBS, et al featuring Jake Tapper and his new book on their talk shows? Because he is one of their own, he gets free major national publicity that other writers can only dream about. Smerconish uses his own show to promote his new book. It is inappropriate self-aggrandizing and only perpetuates the image of media hubris. Stop it.
3. Stop displaying bad attitudes on air. No more curled lips, no rudeness, no sly and vicious commentary inserted into news stories. Recently, host Laura Ingraham was forced to apologize after her tweet about Parkland student David Hogg not getting into college caused advertisers to pull support. She treated him as not just an adult but with the same disdain she would use discussing a political figure. Stop it. It is time for news anchors and reporters to remember their manners.
4. Start doing news pieces that perform a public service. Don’t just talk about the ‘potential for fake news to disrupt the upcoming election cycle.’ Show us what fake news looks like. Point out a false story and show how to spot fake news. Educate the public. It is one of your responsibilities. Start acting like it.
5. Start going beyond the same five to seven news stories that all the other news outlets are chasing each day. You may remember that one of the functions of the press in a democracy is to ‘set the agenda’ for public discourse and to serve as a watchdog on democratic institutions. To do this, media have to stop chasing every errant tweet or false claim of the day. Set the agenda, investigate, and show some leadership.
6. Start disciplining yourselves and your profession. Yes, to be a profession you need to
have standards, enforceable standards, and you need to maintain them. Medical and Legal professionals do. But to be a journalist, one needs no qualifications. Merely to say, “I am a journalist” makes you one. That isn’t enough. Not anymore. Start taking responsibility for the future of your profession. Professionalize it and regain your credibility.