So long, journalism. I’m out.
“There are some people who can receive a truth by no other way than to have their understanding shocked and insulted.” — Carl Sandburg
I wanted to be a newsman once. A Woodward. A Murrow. A Brokaw. For a long time, a newsman is all I ever thought I was in this world. But those days are gone.
I arrived into professional journalism shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when the world went berserk and the most powerful of media sources stopped asking the right questions at the time we needed them asked most. It’s partly how the U.S. ultimately invaded Iraq … by not being tough enough on an administration that was constantly giving the public a patriotism enema instead of being transparent about their causes for war.
Since then, the country, if not the world, has been suffering from “post-9/11 syndrome” — a self-inflicting wound on the frontal lobes of our collective brains. It’s the frontal lobe that regulates decision making, problem solving, control of purposeful behaviors, consciousness and emotions. Or maybe we just lost our minds entirely, hopeless to find them again.
In the wake of that, we divided ourselves up over all kinds of issues, to the point where the line is tempered with fire and no one dares change their minds about which side to be on in order to avoid getting burned. And the fire only seems to be hotter than ever before because we’ve gone so long without cooling down over what is fact and what it is fiction.
I’ve always believed my role as a journalist is to give the public clarity on complicated issues involving those in power who carry influence upon the livelihood of everyone. I’ve always believed that being knowledgeable about matters of state and the welfare of our citizenry is important and not to be neglected.
But in the last decade-plus, more and more people (including so many of people I know) have started applying a dangerous amount of ignorance and selfishness to their personal constitution, so much so that when they are presented with cold, hard facts, they debate whether such information fits with ideals they have adopted due to overdoses of conservative drive-time radio or TV talking heads decrying an ever-changing America and its supposed evaporation of “traditional values.”
It’s a problem we’ve created for ourselves over time because we keep feeding ourselves with erroneous hearsay and repeatedly inject ourselves with fear heroin.
It seems like the editors and reporters who ask serious, thoughtful questions to people in power don’t have access to the loudest microphones or brightest stages. And in this presidential year, it seems like anyone who does have access has completely forgotten about how to hold someone’s feet to the fire — a problem so infectious that the next generation of reporters will never how to do it, either.
And the worst part of this trend? Even the laziest of interviewers, or those simply pushing a political agenda, still refer to themselves as “journalists.”
I would never associate myself with the O’Reillys/Hannitys/Ericksons of the world. I’d sooner jump in front of a moving train. And it’s not just a problem of the political skewing. There’s the production problem. The waste of resources problem. The “do it for the ratings” problem. In short, WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO CNN?
SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO CNN?
So while I may have spent the past 15 years as a journalist, I’m choosing to save my sanity and stop identifying myself by that label. Because it’s been corrupted to a point of shame I just can’t tolerate anymore.
But before I depart this role for good, I want to address a few longstanding issues that I’ve had over the years, in hopes of putting them to bed once and for all …
- Journalism, by its very nature, is a liberal concept. That’s right, LIBERAL. Much like the Constitution itself — liberal. Asking questions to the people we elect for any reason is a liberal action, even when Sean Hannity does it just for the sake of being a total dick. The only difference is when Hannity rides around in a pickup truck with George W. Bush like a schoolgirl with a crush and asks him personal questions, that’s just Hannity patriotically masturbating.
- Does MSNBC have politically liberal slant in its programming? Yes. But if you agree, you must also agree that FOX News has a politically conservative slant. And if you agree that each network as well as CNN does nothing more than produce hour-by-hour shouting matches 95 percent of the year, then must know that your learning deficit about the world around only grows with every minute you watch any of these networks.
- “Listicles” are not news. “Listicle” isn’t even a real word. Just because more than one person has spoken it doesn’t make it a word. It’s lazy writing for people who understand search engine optimization, of which it fulfills the same purpose found behind anything CNN does anymore, which is to sell heavy amounts of advertising.
- Yes … you’ll probably learn more from news satire shows than you will from average news programs. Jon Stewart and the many byproducts of “The Daily Show” might be called “fake news” in their ads, but they’ve been known to ask more real questions than most news media professionals today. They’re often more right than they are wrong because humor comes from a place of truth, not ideology.
- “Journalist” is a term someone else should apply to you when they feel you’re deserving of it, like “expert.” It’s not a label you need to give yourself if your only role is to shout at someone on TV or trash someone on some Periscope video you made while speeding through a school zone in your car.
Like anyone else with a soul still intact, I aim to accomplish a lot of different goals in life. But to work in journalism today is like banging your head against the wall because someone promised you $25K if you could eventually put a hole in it. I love the idea of “journalism” and what I know it used to accomplish, but more than too many of the people attempting to practice it today seem to just like it for the spotlight. You know something they don’t and you think it’s really something juicy. In this age of Internet wonder and social media orgasms, anyone can get that spotlight, but its value is fleeting if you don’t have anything to say that’s going to help others lead better lives.
Am I being sanctimonious about journalism and the role I have in it? Maybe. But I’d like to see you try it. You, the YouTube user who spends most of their days watching videos of failed wedding proposals just to add mean, unwarranted comments about the participants’ sexuality. You, the Twitter user who like to tweet photos of yourself holding a gun and telling everyone how much you love the Second Amendment in the wake of a school shooting. Or you, the so-called “journalist” who got into the profession because you thought you could just say whatever you wanted without consequence. Why not just go into politics and stop bullshitting everyone about what you’re doing?
Try asking FEMA officials why the trailers loaned to residents of New Orleans appeared to be unlivable during winter months after Hurricane Katrina. Ask your college’s athletic director why the student-athletes never seem to face punishment by coaches for alcohol-related arrests. Or call residents in your community late at night, tell them the local leader in the healthcare industry that they knew personally was killed, and then immediately ask them questions about how he should be remembered.
This profession shouldn’t be a hobby-turned-career, like it had been for me. It should be a worthy cause that one can dedicate their life to without doubt or resentment by those who instead call you “liar” when all you’ve done is give them the facts. Journalists should be like samurai, its original translation meaning, “one who serves.”
In the future, if you catch me committing what could be described as an “act of journalism” — blog interviews, podcasts, etc. — don’t call me a hypocrite. As a human being, I’m still compelled to ask questions to someone I believed could provide direct, factual answers in a time when (perhaps) an audience of any size needed to know, even if they only realized it after they heard the answers. Hopefully, they will be better off in some way because of the questions I asked.
Just don’t call me a “journalist.” That’s not me anymore, and I’m really OK with that.
I’m David Brandt. From time to time, I commit acts of journalism. I write words. I write code. Shoot photos. Make friends laugh. Play soccer. Think about the future. Think about my future. Read all of my Onion retweets on Twitter: @davidbrandtwho