Media Resolutions for 2018
Here are [my] 8 resolutions for the new year for people in the news media (and the “Fake News Media.”)
- We are a part of the problem — media networks are networks of power — and we cannot remain complicit to abuses of power. As we report on exploitation of influence and positions of power, sexual harassment and assault, and gender discrimination, let us not forget the people within our own networks who were and are culpable. Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin, Glenn Thrush, Roger Ailes, Michael Orestes. This is a systemic, institutional issue, and until we reflect on our own newsrooms and workplaces, we share the blame and the responsibility.
- Change our approach to the national conversation on sexual assault. This past year, we focused extensively on the problem(s), and that’s not a bad thing. But this year, we need to focus more on the solution(s). Furthermore, women cannot be the ones to solely drive this conversation; men need to be a part of this conversation. But there are a multitude of other voices and identities who are not currently a part of the conversation. Men, LGTBQ+ individuals, persons of color — they are all targets and survivors of sexual misconduct. Ask yourself these questions: Who is doing the reporting? Who is being interviewed? Which communities are we looking at.
- Remember that journalism is foremost a public service, and that requires accountability. journalists should seek the truth. As misinformation circulates and attacks against free press (“Fake News Media,” as Trump most recently tweeted) and journalists reach an apogee — in the United States and around the world — we need good journalism now more than ever. However, we cannot remain complicit; we must hold ourselves and other media sources and journalists accountable. We must hold ourselves to higher standards.
- Think beyond the headlines to what don’t make it to the headlines, particularly in the Western media. Journalism is a business; what’s fit to print is often dictated by what’ll bring in the most hits or the greatest profit. But that isn’t how this public service should work. Why is the coverage on the demonstrations in Iran so sparse, misled, and skewed? Why is Ahed Tamimi not covered by non-Israeli/Middle-Eastern outlets, or given the same attention that other female activists are? Why is no one talking about the attacks in Egypt or Iraq; when are the lives taken by ISIS more than just an underreported number? Whose lives, whose bodies actually matter? And at what point are Trump’s tweets no longer newsworthy/credible sources of information? (Read this great WaPo thought piece on if we would have reported on Charlottesville the way we reported on other [non-Western] countries.) At the very least, we need to ask ourselves these questions.
- Reconsider not just who we report on, but how. Undoubtedly, we should always push ourselves to go to the businesses, cities, communities, and even countries that are underrepresented — and misrepresented — in the media. After all, had we looked to some of those places more closely and thoroughly, maybe we wouldn’t have misjudged the outcome of the election, or at least had been so surprised. But let’s look with extra scrutiny at our headlines, ledes, characterizations, framing, and language. Which aspects of an individual’s identity — national origin, race, skin color, sexuality, class, immigration status, past records or criminal history — are salient in a story, and which are irrelevant, unnecessarily alienating, or inflict more harm than good?
- Use our power for good, and use it responsibly. Journalists have the power to go beyond reporting the facts. We can effect real change. We can make a positive impact. We can inspire. We can remind people of their humanity. We can and should do justice.
- Remind ourselves that journalists are people, too. For one, that means we make mistakes, too! But that also means we need to take care of each other — and we need to take care of ourselves and be taken care of, too. Seek community, and foster community. After all, being a journalist is far from an easy job (hey, it’s not like we do it for the money), and far too many people have lost their jobs in the field, on the ground. (The Newseum in Washington, D.C. has a moving exhibit on this.)
- Anyone can become a journalist. Well, not anyone, and I realize this assertion is a dangerous one to make, especially in the golden age of “fake news.” But as we’ve seen time and time again this year, from protest to protest, from one city or cause to another, often times “citizen journalists” are doing some of the best, most reliable work. Social media and technology have lowered the barriers to sharing information and personal experiences, challenging conventional conceptions of “journalism” and consequently lowering the barriers to entry to the field. But that is a task that media organizations, small and large, need to take up and continue because we need more good people doing good work.