My wife recently complained to me about an article written in our local newspaper. I try to have some sympathy for the newspaper business because it is a dying business, but the article my wife showed me demanded that I at least set the rules straight even if I have decided against calling the author out publicly. Had the author of the article made a point in his disrespectful piece I might have presented a reasoned piece disagreeing with him like I did with another author a few years ago in this article.
However, it is hard to win an argument when you cannot tell what the point of the article is other than to build a case that our local newspaper should find someone to replace the columnist whose articles will hasten the day that I drop our subscription. Surely they do not pay him to write?
Fortunately one of the lessons of my youth was that real journalism has little to do with the condition of the newspaper business. I spent my teenage years in the small town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. During those years, I got to know RJ Berrier quite well.
RJ had been in the newspaper business for over 50 years when he died in 2000. Even then it was a rocky business and RJ watched his beloved Mount Airy Times where he was editor be bought out by the competing Mount Airy News where he finished his career. He went from a manual typewriter to a computer in those 50 years. What newspaper RJ worked for and how much he was paid had little to do with his journalistic standards which were likely even tougher than those that I have linked. He sought the truth and worked tirelessly at presenting it accurately.
I still remember RJ telling me once that most people only got the privilege of being in the newspaper three times, once when they were born, a second time when they graduated from high school, and a final time when they died. RJ believed that they deserved to have their names spelled correctly during those moments. That attention to detail is long gone in today’s world of newspapers.
While we are in a different world than my friend RJ navigated, that is no excuse for completely throwing journalistic standards out the window. I believe the poorly written article that I read is a good example of just how far journalism has declined.
I would link to the article but like many other people who have been writing for years, I try not to harm others even idiots. I make every effort “to seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; be accountable.”
I have debated whether I should write his editor and suggest the so-called journalist enroll in an ethics course, but I long ago learned that making sure that I do the kind of quality writing that I believe my readers deserve is a full time job. As such it does not leave time for trying to intervene in a newspaper’s continuing effort to drive away the few remaining readers that they have.
It is easy to write garbage which appeals to the baser instincts of people. What is hard is telling the truth when the truth is not very popular. I will keep telling the truth but hopefully in a way that helps rather than hurts people.
If you like the way that I approach writing, I would love to have you as a reader.