There’s something to be said for someone who exhibits integrity. It speaks volumes and lends credibility. However, as essential as integrity is to the media industry, it is something many news entities fail to exhibit.
The quality of news has changed over the years, and the way news is disseminated has also changed. The influx of technology, bloggers and the like has led to once-credible media outlets shifting their focus to compete in the war to attract readers and viewers. News — as we knew it when greats like Indianapolis’ own Barbara Boyd and the incomparable Ted Koppel graced the screen — has changed drastically. Gone are the days when the majority of news was reported as, well, news. Now we see a larger focus on the blending of information and entertainment. In our industry we call it “infotainment.” Infotainment, as catchy as the phrase is, restricts media outlets and limits the knowledge that is so desperately needed in America today.
Infotainment has dumbed us down, and we are hurting as a result. America is hurting.
Time and time again I have had conversations with colleagues in the field as well as curious “outsiders” who see the rapid shift of news. Like me, they are not pleased.
“When will news go back to being news?” one newspaper publisher asked me after an exasperating conversation that left both of us with a headache.
Another colleague, a producer at a major network in Atlanta, told me, “The expectations we now have to increase viewership has dampened the spirits of everyone at our station who genuinely aspires to deliver news people can use, rather than news that entertains people. It is exhaustive.”
And then there was the comment by someone who has been a mentor to me in this industry, who is a seasoned journalist and who has the gift to always look at things objectively and still find a silver lining. That person despondently told me, “I don’t want to be a journalist anymore. It just isn’t the same, and I don’t want to be part of the industry anymore.”
A couple weeks after the last person and I had our conversation, news hit that Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC anchor known for her show that focused on issues like social justice and racism, parted ways with the network because she felt MSNBC was “trying to squeeze her off the air and take away her editorial point of view.”
It is important to note Harris-Perry did not claim to believe her decrease in airtime was because she is African-American. It is also important to note the three colleagues I referenced earlier all work for mainstream media outlets, and two of the three are caucasian. I am finding true journalists who have the passion, skillset and educational background to deliver news in an authentic and intelligently stimulating manner want the freedom to do just that. However, because people’s attention spans have shortened and many seem less concerned about real issues (yet more intrigued by what’s going on in the lives of celebrities), the “new news” is slowly killing the spirits and creativity of true journalists.
New news is also making industry insiders exhibit signs of ADD in an attempt to deliver news on multiple platforms regardless of one’s primary focus.
Because of that, people like Melissa Harris-Perry and the mentor I referenced earlier are fed up, and they are tired.
Harris-Perry recently said, “I care only about substantive, meaningful and autonomous work.”
Boy did she hit the nail on the head.
Her thoughts are the thoughts of so many great journalists who just want news to be the way it used to be — news and not infotainment.
Sadly, during a time when we most need our soldier journalists to be out there supplying the public with quality, substantive news, we fall short of delivery. When real journalists diminish even more frequently and infotainment “journalists” increase, our country becomes even more ill informed. When you consider the future of our children and our children’s children, that reality becomes very clear. And very sad. And very scary.