Don’t chide journalists just for doing their job


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at an event, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Nicole Schroeder

When I was younger, I did not want to be a journalist. Watching movies that featured reporters as snobby, self-centered characters — Spiderman and Harry Potter come to mind — or reading the headlines on magazines in the store check-out line, I always saw the media painted in a less-than-positive light. I heard of reporters cutting corners in order to break a story , or publishing false information to draw in a few extra readers.
Now, I see the unfair biases these portrayals place on journalists. Hollywood movies still show reporters sneaking onto crime scenes with no regard for others. The press, as a whole, are berated for the poor choices of a few. Politicians such as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her GOP opponent, Donald Trump, accuse the media of twisting their words or reporting false information. Trump has even tweeted multiple times about journalists going “out of their way to distort the truth” about him and his campaign.
Unfortunately, unlike topics such as gender equality or immigration law, which seem to immediately create controversy, I have yet to witness a public showing of support for the media when celebrities single them out.
In fact, after stories of the paparazzi chasing down celebrities to take and publish unwanted photos, or of political journalists misquoting politicians in Washington, a stigma seems to have formed around journalists that makes them seem willing to cheat and deceive in order to break a story. While no one has said anything to me directly, people have given me judgemental looks when I have mentioned going into journalism. Many have turned down simple interviews and others have demanded to see their quotes before my stories were published solely to make sure I had not altered them in any way.
As an amateur journalist, I find this upsetting. Knowing how others perceive the media, it is discouraging to think that the audience who will read my stories will do so skeptically, despite the work I have gone through to make sure my facts are correct. Even more than that, I wonder how many potential journalists have turned away from the profession because of the reputation it carries.
I don’t doubt there are journalists who would go to immoral lengths to report an interesting story. Even Joseph Pulitzer began his career through yellow journalism where stories were published based on the theory, “if it bleeds, it leads.” But I am offended when these individual examples become the perceived standard for all journalists, threatening the integrity of the field because of the actions of a few.
Those who judge journalists based on the comments celebrities have made, or the stories of freelance reporters acting unethically are not looking at the profession as a whole. The vast majority of us fact check our work multiple times to verify its accuracy and spend hours writing and rewriting a piece before it is ever published.
If a child is found to be a bully, the entire class does not receive repercussions; in the same way, one unethical journalist should not be used to represent the entire occupation. The public needs to realize that, while not all journalists are perfect, they are not all deceitful and conceited, either. It’s those who think otherwise that will truly endanger the craft if this stereotype on journalism does not end.