Journalistic Integrity Under Attack

Thursday, March 31, 2016 Written by 
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There is a lot of talk about journalistic integrity, and the campaign trail is the one place where it is seriously being tested.


We are living in a day when Donald Trump’s tweets are being presented as real news.  Fewer outlets—even the major ones—are bothering to check facts.  In the rush to make the 24-hour news cycle, journalists are just regurgitating what is being said on television.


Trump is a master of getting media attention.  From sexist and racist comments, to inciting violence at his rallies, he is running the media like his former reality TV show.  


Trump seems to be getting free reign to say whatever he wants. And news outlets gobble up his every word like apple pie.   He seems to be getting a free pass not to answer any substantial questions.  Even when pressed by some reporters to back up his campaign rhetoric, he brushes them off.


Is he that good of an entertainer that he has the media mesmerized or is something else going on?


If you guessed money, you would be correct.  Trump is good for ratings, which equals more advertising, which equals more money.  Some news stations have even admitted that his outrageous comments have driven up advertising sales.  


The problem with reporting driven by advertising is that the facts become muddy.  Too much focus is given to Trump’s personality, and not enough to his potential as the leader of the free world.  It’s an awesome responsibility which cannot be taken lightly. 


As President Barack Obama said to a group of reporters in New York this week, referring to the current presidential campaign:  “I was going to call it a ‘carnival atmosphere,’ but that implies fun.” Having a president who regularly spews out expletives, insults women and people of color and takes no responsibility for his outlandish remarks is no laughing matter.


Speaking at a Syracuse University awards ceremony honoring the late political journalist Robin Toner, Obama urged journalists to be more thorough in reporting news and tone down the sensationalism.  


For reporters, Obama said, “a job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone.” The billions of dollars in free media should come with “serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep,” he said.


While many would view the Enquirer or TMZ with a bit of skepticism, mainstream outlets are not immune from sensationalism.  It is well known that the L.A. Times has a history of hyping up negative aspects of minority neighborhoods, and ignoring the positive.  This is why Inglewood Today was started.  There needed to be more balanced reporting, stories that accurately reflect people of color.  


The negative stereotyping of Inglewood is becoming a thing of the past thanks to obvious progress in the city.  Despite recent potshots being taken at Inglewood, some stakeholders are setting the record straight, by writing editorials.  If non-journalists can do this, then there is no excuse for professionals not to be balanced in their reporting.  Inglewood cannot be economically depressed as the Times reported, and attract billion-dollar investors at the same time.


Bottom line, it will take all of us, journalists, activists and registered voters to go beyond the hype of news outlets driven by ratings.  We need to ask the tough questions of candidates, even when journalists don’t, because our future is at stake, and this is a reality that we will have to live with for the next 4 years.


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