“Enough is Enough.”
I found it ironic yet comforting to hear those three words come from President-elect and Democrat Joe Biden and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. They were referring to President Donald Trump inciting and supporting the mob storming the United States Capitol Building. Ironic, because these two people would normally never be on the same side of any major issue affecting our country. Comforting, because they both seemed to be saying, “It is time to put the chaos, hyperbole and sensationalism of the past four years behind us.”
Let me back up a bit. It was 15 months and seven days ago when I took over the assets of Editor and Publisher magazine, the 140-plus-year-old independent voice (and some say “bible”) of the North American newspaper industry. At the ripe old age of 63, I had a good run as a media revenue consultant, with fortunately enough bank assets, for me and my wife and business partner, Robin, to look at dialing down the consulting business. It was time to enjoy a more retirement-oriented life once our daughter left the nest. Many of my colleagues asked me why I would take over a publication that was not making a profit, with very few assets besides a website, email database and a subscriber list. The answer that I always gave was that I wanted to help and payback the industry that I love: news publishing.
Within five weeks, I published my first editorial (“Shep, Say It Ain’t So!,” Oct. 13, 2019), where I expounded on my fear that cable news was losing credible journalists. I was watching an industry that millions turned to for credible information mix-in seamlessly their own reporters’ opinions inside the news they broadcast, thus creating their own echo chambers of those who agreed with their political and social leanings. I boasted that one of the main reasons I love the news publishing industry is that we believe in making sure that we do our best to separate and properly label our true news content from opinion.
A few months later, I wrote my next editorial (“Dear Joe Scarborough and Brian Kilmeade”), where I begged our cable news brethren to re-read Tom Wolfe's “Bonfire of the Vanities” with hopes that they would stop fanning the flames of their viewers’ fears and angers, so they could build and create more engagement with their audience.
Today, I am urging the entire media industry to join in with Mr. Biden and Mr. Graham by saying, “Enough is enough.” Because those three words should not just be directed at our president, but include the megaphones we give all newsmakers.
Democracy is hard. It not only requires a citizen to allow a fellow citizen the right to have an opinion or belief that is 100 percent opposed to your own, but you also have to respect their right to voice it. Without that, we have no democracy. Perhaps “enough is enough” could also mean that prior to generating any story, a journalist should that ask themself:
1) “Am I creating this content for all who could read this, or just those that live within my news's echo chamber?"
2) “Are there two sides to this argument, and am I acknowledging that in how I present this story?”
3) “Am I intentionally leaving out some facts that could be included, so a reader or viewer could frame their own opinion rather than having to adopt my own?”
These ideas are not new. Simply go to YouTube to turn back the clock and watch some old broadcasts from when David Sarnoff ruled NBC and considered news a sacred trust and public service—or stay in the present and watch anything written by Aaron Sorkin.
Because let’s face it—enough IS enough.
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Tuesday, February 2, 2021 Report this
While I can appreciate that "enough is enough", just referring to a simple guidebook may not be enough. Agreed, making an effort to step outside your echo chamber, seeking to fairly report both sides of an argument and reporting all the facts, not just those convenient to your argument, may be a good start, but it probably is not good enough. My three decades of experience in newsrooms has taught me that the more fair you think you are, the less objective you have become, and the more "fact-based" you believe your reporting to be, the greater the role that opinion has taken in your approach to research.
Journalists, today, do not just report to their echo chamber, they have been raised and educated within it, and not only do they not acknowledge that there is another side to the story, they do not recognize that one exists, nor that there are any facts other than those accepted as valid by other members of their limited social/intellectual circle. Nor is your worthy reference to journalism ethics relevant in an Internet media landscape where insight and empathy is no longer built by years reporting everything from births to obituaries, house fires, car accidents, street fairs and street crime, not just for a social circle but for an entire community.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021 Report this