Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Media Madness

America's favorite whipping boy is the media. Little doubt about that. On top of this, depending on where you are reading, listening or viewing, there is plenty of bias. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been a part of the media for a half century. This means I must be guilty one way or the other for at least part of the media mess. Frankly I do not recall any digressions, save perhaps the time I wrote in less than flattering terms about Frank Sinatra.  Our editor got a phone call in full gangster voice asking “where's this guy Reilly live?  I'm gonna punch him in the mouth.”

Now that we have posted the disclaimer may I ask you a couple of questions? What do you think of the efficiency and the ethics of modern day media? For starters, we have to acknowledge that the ownership of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, every other medium from cable to billboards and matchbook covers are in it to make a buck. Bad news usually suits that end. We, the receivers of the information communicated, may be happiest if all was well with the world, but that's not going to happen. There is always bad news somewhere. The media will go find it and tell us all about it. This helps to sell newspapers and air time.

I wonder if we wouldn't be better off if the media didn't report bad news over and over again. This applies particularly to cable news. They would be doing their job by reporting incidents once, but filling airtime with the same story repeatedly makes us feel we are in the midst of epidemics. The recent unfortunate killing of a black male by a policeman is sad news for sure. The facts must be thoroughly investigated. If the officer is guilty his badge and gun must immediately be turned in and a legal process initiated. But the media latch on to this incident and then dig up any cases across the country that appear on the face of it to be one and the same. Now we have a media-inspired impression that all police are targeting black males and routinely using deadly force 24/7 against this segment of our population. It's just not true.

Responsibility and accountability are two very valuable trusts that need to be reintroduced in our newsrooms. And to the general population as well.

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