Today’s Journalism: No Experience Required?

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

Good journalism, somebody once said, is a nation talking to itself.

That’s “talking to itself,” not yelling, screaming, shrieking, talking over one another and engaging in verbal bullying.

That is just about all we see on prime-time television–especially cable television–these days.

Primetime cable TV outlets such as Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, etc. continue to produce a proliferation of hosts and pundits with no foundation in journalistic ethics and tradition. Today’s so-called “news shows” more often than not devolve into shoutfests where guests and hosts engage, not in any intelligent discussion of issues, but in contests to see who can talk the loudest or bully those who disagree with them into submission.

 

That kind of “squawk talk” comes with a steep price. What does the viewing public learn from such exhibitions of bad behavior?

The answer, I would argue, is not much. Because when people are yelling at one another, calling one another names or behaving like petulant children, reasoned discourse disappears and the viewer gets lost in the shrill entertainment of the moment. I believe we have lost the art of reasonable discourse in this country. If you don’t agree with someone, then just talk or shout over them, call them names, make faces and behave like a two-year-old. (Sorry if I have insulted any two-year-olds).

Opinion is NOT reporting. Yet those who monitor the recent explosion of misnamed “news shows” say viewers don’t discern between shows with distinct political agendas and those that attempt to present events with a minimum of subjectivity and a maximum of fairness and balance.

When I started out in the newspaper business, reporters were taught that while all of us have biases, as professionals we must work to subordinate those prejudices and keep our opinions out of the stories we report.

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