With this being my last column for the year as one of the Editorial Editors for the opinion section of The Miami Student (TMS), I can honestly say I have learned a great deal about not only the Miami University community this year, but about journalism as a whole.
Being an editor for a student publication is an eye-opening experience and has ultimately showed me what is starting to happen to most of our society when it comes to journalism in a democracy. Within this year I have encountered some angry emails and pushy agendas. All of which I understand will always come with the job as being an editor at a newspaper. However, being behind the scenes of TMS has alerted me to some startling characteristics of the American people today.
As media consumers we have become lazy and downright whiney, it sounds rather blunt but I can’t describe it any other way. When I state we, I mean almost everyone that reads and watches news daily. Everyone is able to feed their own bias by only watching news networks and reading websites devoted to exactly what they believe in. Everyday, most people read their favorite newspaper, watch their beloved news channel and read the same blogs. How is that challenging preconceived views though? The answer is, it isn’t. With a sufficient amount of choice comes sacrifice, and in this case, the sacrifices are well-rounded media consumers.
What a newspaper, a network news station and other forms of journalism are supposed to do ethically is provide a range of views and topics on subject matter, that will provide them with what they need to make informed decisions in a democracy, not what they want to know. That right there is the problem. Everyone wants something now. And when they don’t get it from the media, they complain. They complain or switch news networks, start reading a different paper and they make a choice. This is a vicious cycle, which has forced newsrooms and papers to jump on the entertainment bandwagon to keep ratings and circulation high. Journalism seems to be slowly dying, and it is a scary thought.
What I love about being an editor for the editorial section is that I am able to try and combat this rather contagious problem in the media. Nothing excites me more than when we get letters to the editor about the same issue but they both argue different points. I publish both because there are multiple angles to any story. By playing into only one, readers and consumers are ultimately harmed.
However, newspapers are not public relations. I have taken public relations at Miami, and though journalism and PR mix quite well together, they are not the same animal. As an editor, getting a press release sent to me six times in a row is not going to make me publish it. The problem is people feel entitled to their ideas and also feel that a newspaper absolutely has to publish something. That is extremely wrong, and I cannot stress that enough. We publish stories, letters and essays if they meet our expectations journalistically and provide the community with something they should know. And just because TMS is a student run newspaper, this facet of journalism has not changed. The New York Times does not run their sections this way, and neither does TMS.
What I have noticed is when a media consumer does not get their way it is astonishing. There is a difference between fighting for what you believe in and feeling as if the media owes you a favor. Journalism is intended to show people what they need, even when they don’t want the information and even when they don’t know they need it yet. That is what a good publication and news outlet does. The media is not supposed to be over-run by its consumers, because then we no longer have journalism in a democracy.
However, there is a balance. Consumers and readers should be able to voice their opinions, give story suggestions and participate in the media. That is part of the definition of a democracy. But trying to force publications to publish an agenda, switching news networks because something was reported that you didn’t agree with, that is ultimately hurting what is left of journalism. My worry is that it is too late to save our news from, ultimately, ourselves.
I love opinions, open-ended discussions and looking at life from all perspectives. That is why I chose to become an Editorial Editor for TMS. I thought to my self, if I could affect journalism in some way, even small, I would want to provide all of the angles of our life here at Miami and in the United States in one single section, or attempt to. I had a talented and intelligent group of essayists and columnists work for TMS this year, and I also had amazing feedback from the Miami community about what this section could work on.
What I hope for next year and for every year is that when it comes to journalism, the American people start thinking more along the lines of, “how can I be the most well rounded media consumer?” instead of “I am not getting my way so how can I bully them into giving me what I want?” I hope more of those who read the opinion section send more letters to the editor, submit essays and take the time to read every piece even if you don’t agree with it. Participating in journalism is the first step, reinforcing every angle of a story is the second.