It’s not something that happens overnight.
It’s not even something that usually happens over weeks or even months.
It’s a process that, typically, extends over the course of years.
A blemish appears. Barely even noticeable, tucked in a corner where few see or take notice. Slowly it grows. A hairline crack in the foundation. Perhaps it’s eventually seen but nobody takes notice. Then, years later, the first problem develops. It’s minor. Not a big deal. Not even small enough to consider an inconvenience. And yet it continues to fester and grow. A storm under the surface, accumulating in strength and power, until, one day, it pounces, and by then, it’s often too late.
People will say it came out of nowhere. That nobody saw it coming. Yet it gave off signs for years, decades even, and nobody paid attention.
It happens in the death of a human.
It happens in the death of democracy.
The Erosion Of Journalistic Integrity
A journalist recently asked a college football coach what he thought about a player’s right to transfer. He said all players should have the right to do so and not sit out, as currently some players are granted waivers to participate right away when transferring, while others are denied and must sit out a year. However, some student-athletes have discovered if they claim depression at the former school they are more likely to be granted immediate eligibility.
The coach said he didn’t think anyone had the right to determine who suffered from depression and who didn’t, so instead everyone should be granted immediate eligibility on their first transfer.
A handful of sports journalists took the quote and twisted it to suggest the coach questioned depression as a real disorder.
They were reporters for competing programs, and as such massaged the story to fit their narrative, to sell more papers and to earn more online advertisement clicks.
They told a partial story to make money.
But that’s just sports journalism, that’s not real news journalism, right?
It’s exactly what’s happening in real news journalism.
Much has been said about the President Trump tweet telling four Democratic congresswomen to “go back to your country.”
Nearly every major outlet ran that quote, blasting it for being racist. Pointing out the obvious that they had been born in the United States. Or that the president’s wife wasn’t from the U.S.
24-hour news stations had a field day. Late-night talk show hosts talked about it. A musician at my local bar stopped her performance to disown it.
Problem is, that wasn’t the quote.
The quote was “go back where you came from.”
It sounds similar. But there’s a big difference between “go back to your country” and “go back where you came from.”
I’ve been told many times to “go back where I came from.” When I moved from Michigan to Georgia I was told that. When I moved from Michigan to Arizona I was told that.
If you’ve lived in different locations you’ve probably been told that before.
You’ve probably been out driving, seen someone in a car with a different state license plate do something dumb, and you might mutter out for them to go back to wherever that state license plate came from.
Now, I’m not championing the tweet or saying that. I don’t like world leaders spouting off on a social media site.
But the issue I have is with major news outlets changing a direct quote to better fit a narrative and to sell papers and increase clicks.
It’s fabricating the truth.
It’s the loss of journalistic integrity.
And this loss of journalistic integrity. The altering of direct quotes has led to protests on both sides. Chants on both sides. A wider separation between both sides.
According to Politico, annual deportation numbers are down under the current president when compared to President Obama. But you’d never know that with how the news is reported.
Because negative Trump headlines are big business.
And ultimately, news organizations are around to make money. Not to keep the public 100% informed.
This is one example from a continually growing list. It forces the general public to research every topic. To background check all newspapers. To cross-examine all reporters.
But who has the time to do the job the reporter, the journalist, the newspaper, the news broadcast, is supposed to be doing for you?
The creation of the 24-hour news stations may have marked the first real crack, the first blemish, in the death of democracy.
Not because the stations keep us informed, but because the stations shave away parts of the truth to boost profits and, by doing so, keep us misinformed.
Despite what many say, a single president will not lead to the collapse of the United States. There are enough checks and balances in place to prevent this from happening. Gone are the days of ultimate power czars where a lifetime of bad decisions leads to the overthrowing of the government.
Presidents are a flash in the pan. Before you know it they’re out.
No, it’s not a president, but the erosion of fact-based journalism. The delivery of half-truths, the emission of details, and the editorializing of reports.
It’s a major problem. And it needs to be addressed and corrected before death pounces and nothing can be done.