MEDIA Matters

November 9, 2016
3 mins read

“The only security of all is in a free press.” 
—Thomas Jefferson

Being in the media is less a career thana calling. The hours are long, the pay usually stinks, the work is often thankless and some days it feels like everyone hates you and blames you for everything that’s wrong in the world. And, as an added bonus, every time we mess up at work, the whole world gets to read all about it in the corrections section.

If you want to get up close and personal with the utmost limits of your ability to process stress, pursue a career in journalism.

People in the media are insulted, harassed, assaulted, kidnapped, sued and murdered in the line of duty. Sometimes it feels like we should qualify for hazard pay. Other times, like when we give a voice to the voiceless, expose a wrong or champion a right, it feels like we would do the job for free. (Note to the boss: The feeling passes quickly.)

There certainly are fame-addicted shills in the media who care less about right and wrong than recognition and advancement. And there certainly are some in the media who are so biased that their objectivity is nonexistent.

But most of us are good, some of us are noble, and a few of us will change the world.

In the past several years and particularly in recent months, complaints about the media have steadily increased until it has become a roar that dominates much of the national conversation about the press. A 2013 Gallup poll even found that a paltry 20 percent of the public ranked reporters as “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards – the poll found that people actually trust local politicians more than reporters. Anyone who’s covered local politics longer than five seconds knows exactly how hilarious that is.

Considering the foregoing, the sheer numbers of statements being made of late that include the phrase “the media isn’t covering” or “the press isn’t paying attention” or “the media doesn’t want you to know” is less than surprising. It’s also 100 percent, completely, totally, utterly wrong.

Take it from someone in the media, we want you to know everything; seriously, we’d like nothing more than for each and every man, woman and child to soak up our every word like a sponge, for “TLDR” to disappear from the national vernacular. Who wants to read 8,000 words about pensions?! Nobody. Except Curtis Lee. (Praise be, Curtis Lee.)

But we’d settle for being less hated.

Last weekend The Florida Times-Union’s owners astonished everyone, except those of us who have labored in the trenches of local news shoulder-to-shoulder with that big hairy animal and its archconservative owners, when they unilaterally decided against the wishes of the editorial board to endorse OJ Adolf.

Appalled and angry at being embarrassed on the national stage (again), locals took to the mean streets of social media and, boy oh boy, did the indignation rage. Personally, I’d be lying if I said my first reaction was something other than uncontrollable laughter. Outrage at Goliath = opportunity for David.

And, as I’m typing this hours before Election Day without the benefit of knowing the outcome, I still sympathize with those who would like nothing better than to run the T-U’s and The St. Augustine Record’s owners out of town on a rail on the outside possibility that the endorsement will sway the electorate.

I’m also pissed at the owners for impugning the integrity of the media.

Overruling editors and forcing them to sign their names to words they don’t agree with is practically a how-to on destroying the perception of editorial independence that takes years to build and seconds to demolish. It’s acts like these that are at the core of the public’s mistrust of us. People don’t like subterfuge and sleight-of-hand from the ones that are expected to be honest to a fault, ethical beyond compare and stand behind their words 110 percent. And they especially don’t like it from those people’s bosses.

A lot of the anger that is being directed towards the paper is understandable, and I do believe in putting your dollars where your values are. Chick-fil-A’s nuggets and waffle fries (!) are delicious but I ain’t funding opposition to same sex marriage. #Nope

But, as much as it pains a competitor to admit, that endorsement is not reflective of the journalists who work at the T-U. Just like the reporters whose bylines appear on these hallowed pages, each does their damnedest to get the story straight and right and tell people truths that move and inform. Sure, there may be a trickle-down effect of the ownership’s conservatism that sneaks into a line here, a headline there; but a fact is a fact is a fact.

As a frenemy to the journalists who work for the T-U, I can’t help but feel sympathy for their integrity being questioned because of the unilateral decision of the out-of-touch and out-of-state rich old white dude who signs their checks feels justified in substituting his judgment for the very people he employs. This isn’t something William S. Morris IV can make all better with a front-page explanation about traditional conservative values. Those reporters deserve better than that. Northeast Florida does, too.

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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