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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dear Media:

I am a patriotic American. No. Really. I don't just use that as a cheap buzz word because my talking heads told me that I am. I love my country and I sincerely want to help bring her to a healthy place.

As such, I need for you, collectively, to acknowledge your complicity in the tragic place we are finding ourselves at this time. As America is facing so much societal unrest, our journalists are not informing their audience beyond the generic aspects which are being offered on almost all other channels. What is the point of having multiple 24/7 news outlets if there is no means of differentiation? Our politics have become ridiculous. Out of fear, you neglect to report on much of it because you don't want to be condemned as illegitimate for 'liberal bias.' Of course, by offering your audience a deliberately filtered account of facts, you are defining your work as illegitimate. But for a different reason.

In this day and age where absolutely anyone can write and build an audience (ehem), the onus is on you to be the stalwart documentarians of the true chronicle we leave to history. As such, you are failing miserably. You have allowed your messages and their means of delivery to be dictated by your competition. And, thus, you have allowed the standards by which your industry has been maintained to be lowered. Profoundly.

When something newsworthy occurs in America, it is your responsibility to ask yourselves those essential 6 questions. Write them on a sticky note and tape it to your monitor or your cameraman, if necessary. You should always realize that those are the questions your audience is looking to have answered. When you focus too much on one or neglect another, altogether, you are not offering a complete account. You are doing your own legacy and your audience a disservice.

For instance: When a riot breaks out in a city because a ball team has won or lost a championship, ask why. This will be important for future comparisons when other riots break out to create distinctions between the two. And when riots do break out in the future, don't opine to your audience about how unbelievable this is to see in our society. Don't forget to inform them of all of the other riots America has seen lately about sports teams. When protests or rioting break out in a community which has been oppressed for decades, do not spend so much of your time on the who without an in-depth look at who and then asking the most important- why. Do not offer a lazy answer about a young man being murdered by the police. The history of that city and its struggles are important pieces to building the dialogue necessary for the comprehensive understanding Americans will need to have about that young mans death. America is really losing an opportunity to understand and identify with that community.

There is no need to excitedly anticipate the next negative event to happen in the community. Another cable channel will report on that and will feel free to report on it even if it doesn't happen. Take the high road and offer your audience the respect they deserve by rising to their intellectual level. Also, in offering your audience the story of the community, please avoid using derogatory language to define the news makers. As a hint: if any term is used repeatedly on the Fox cable channel with the word 'news' in its title, refrain from using it, you are lowering yourselves to a level that a thoughtful audience will want to disassociate from. Fox has their own built in audience, if you want to appeal to them on their level, you are not a journalist.

When you do a story about a politician, we want to have many questions answered that seem to be negated by all news outlets: Who are they? Why are they running for office? What is their platform? How do they intend to make changes they seek? Presently, the politicians are directing the narrative. If they do not answer the questions America wants answered, don't send the piece to air or print. They are using you as free publicity. And you are letting them.

You are offering politicians a voice to perpetuate their rhetoric. You are neither holding them nor yourselves accountable for what knowledge Americans are being afforded about those who are hoping to shape our futures. If a politician has nothing new to say, there is no need to report on their having repeated the same thing they said the day before. Allow your budget department and management to deal with the fact that they pay for a camera, sound and a reporter to follow them around waiting for them to be interesting. If they fail to offer you anything new, do not insult your audience by giving them bullshit and calling it news.

If a politician offered an actual platform, that would certainly be newsworthy. And if their platform is wildly different than what they have been saying on the stump about their 'ideals,' it is then your responsibility, as journalists, to ask them to explain their contradictions. Out of fear, you are allowing politicians to use you as a tool to manipulate the dialogue in American discourse and lowering the expectations anyone would have of a legitimate and sincere debate. Just because their audience doesn't want to have to use critical thought, doesn't mean the rest of us don't. Lets be honest, they have their own media and aren't listening to you anyway.

If someone has written a book which has not yet been released which offers outlandish information that has not yet been substantiated, that is not news. It should not be reported as such. You have, again, lowered yourselves to the level of the Fox cable channel with the word 'news' in its title. At present, you are competing with them. They are not your competition. Your work should first and foremost be mindful of the fact that, by virtue of their having an obvious bias with opinions they have been paid to have, they are not a credible news outlet. Kindly stop behaving otherwise.

How about you stop reporting it when politicians are offering rumors? How about you use your research skills to see if there is any "there" there before you report it and offer it to the American audience? How about you go back to what you learned when studying to become a journalist and reread the definitions of "newsworthy" and "credibility"? Repeatedly. How about you only report on it when politicians actually create news? Currently you are rewarding them like giving a bone to a dog that has just shit on your floor. How about you start conditioning them to only get to have the free publicity when they do something that a politician should be doing? You are allowing them to dictate your narrative. And that is not journalism.

We have lost a lot of true legends in journalism lately. Have you paid attention to the many remembrances written and broadcast about them by fellow journalists? Do you ever imagine what will be said about you? Do you hope to have a phrase like "journalistic integrity" attributed to your work? As long as this shift of credible media coverage remains the norm, very few of today's journalists will be remembered for having been impartial and thoughtful.

Much more important than your legacy, however, is the legacy of America. You are recording her history every day. It looks pretty bleak, huh? What will future generations think when they research this era in history? You all have a hand in the place we find ourselves and how we will be remembered. Please start working as if that is important to you.