Sunday, September 26, 2010

The journalist: 2010's new supervillain

Just ask the people who I was sitting in court with the other day.
Here's the scenario. A woman was involved in a fatal car accident. She was arrested for DUI after using Lortab. Her preliminary hearing was this week. I went to the second day of it.
Sitting in the courtroom, waiting for it to begin, some of the elderly people in the audience began discussing the story that had been in the Herald that day, written by one of my coworkers.
Here are some of the "high"lights, though they're not exact quotes.
  • That's their job, to make filth out of everything.
  • I don't know how they can feel good about taking a paycheck.
  • You'd think the newspaper would check its articles.
  • That reporter didn't hear the same thing I heard.
I sat there, sure they knew I was a reporter based on the press pass I was wearing, and listened to them callously discuss my newspaper. I said nothing, based on my need to be objective and the realization that it wouldn't have mattered anyway. There were some things I thought about saying, though.
Like of course the reporter didn't hear the same thing those people heard. They heard that the police are out to get this woman, who they love and has never done anything wrong. She heard what the witnesses said. And the newspaper does check its articles. We fact check, but we don't make sure it's not going to piss people off. In fact, we aim to piss people off sometimes. We like to make people think, and sometimes that's uncomfortable.
And how do I feel good about taking a paycheck? Sometimes I don't. But most of the time, just like most people in most jobs most of the time, I recognize that I am doing something worthwhile. I put information out there that people need to know. I put things into the public discourse that the government and the typical sources won't put out there. There are times those same people appreciated the newspaper, I have no doubt. They're angry because they don't like what's on the front page. That doesn't make the reporter the devil.
And make filth out of everything? Screw you, whoever said that. I don't spin. I don't spew filth everywhere I go. I am a good person, and so is every other reporter in this building. And this world would be a much dirtier place without reporters.

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