Society needs responsible journalism, responsible audiences
Not long before a previous presidential election, a friend asked me to suggest which media outlets might provide the most useful information for voting. I commended her for striving to become more educated on the candidates and their platforms, noting how confusing it can be to identify reliable sources in this day and age.
As a newspaper journalist, I belong to what’s often referred to simply as “the media” — which might lead one to assume that every paper, TV, radio station or website all operate identically. But in 2020, the opposite is true.
The digital era has helped hasten a blur between fair reporting and a slew of news outlets, blogs and social media bent on advancing opinions, agendas and misinformation. As the United States bishops note in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” their guide for Catholic voters, “Unfortunately, politics in our country often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype” (No. 14).
Much has changed since I graduated from journalism school at Syracuse University in 1982. There, I was taught that a good journalist consults sources on both sides of an issue; does as much researching and interviewing as necessary to arrive at the truth; and presents his or her story accordingly.
Our society not only needs responsible journalism, it needs responsible readers/viewers/listeners as well — folks truly interested in seeking a balanced presentation of issues, not limiting their search to outlets supporting personal biases.
I’ll stop short of suggesting specific media sources, since the definition of what’s balanced can fluctuate from person to person. But I strongly believe that if you use this ideal as your guiding force, you stand a much better chance of making a truly informed decision at voting time.