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On journalisting

April 19, 2013

For the DBlye

Before PTSD, I wanted to go to law school. Sometimes I still think about it. But my mental health had other plans. So I struggled survived my way through university and made it out with a GPA that put law school out of the question, and if my GPA hadn’t torched my chances, my persistent lack of faith in myself would have.

Anyway, while I was surviving university, and searching for ways to escape all the things that go on inside my head, I found some healthy ways to do that and some really unhealthy ways to do it. Like drinking.

And journalism.

I joined one of the campus papers kind of on a whim. I showed up at an open house kind of meeting and, for reasons I will never be able to explain, decided to join the news team.

I think it was the first time someone other than my parents told me I was good at something. The news editors would completely rewrite everything I wrote, every week, and then tell me I was really great at what I was doing. I didn’t get it at first, but I loved it enough to become a Student Journalist. You know the type. I love thinking back and remember how seriously we took ourselves and everything else. I’d give anything to feel like that again.

(Because everything relates to hockey, I got through the cancelled NHL season because by that time I’d become a news editor and basically spent my life in the Tribune office.)

Anyway. I don’t think I ever really thought about doing that for a living at the time, and I quickly realized, once I was in the real world, that I couldn’t do it for a living in the real world.

This week, I saw what I might have become, and the idea makes me a little sick.

There are a lot of journalists and specifically news reporters I have a lot of respect for. That will always be true. And this isn’t about them.

But I am tired of seeing, on Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube—when you post that you were running in the Boston Marathon on Monday but you’re safe, or that someone affected by a tragedy was your friend or your relative, or your video of the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas—a comment from a reporter, identifying his or herself, who he or she works for, and could you speak to them about your experience, or your loved one,  or what you saw, for a story? I’m all for doing what it takes to get the story, but it often comes as putting desperation to file a story ahead of sensitivity.

Also, does that ever work?

I am tired of reading stories like “Canadian who witnessed tragedy is back home, says it was terrifying.” There are a lot of Canadians in the world. A whole bunch of us right here, in North America, in fact. I don’t want to seem like a jerk, but who the fuck cares whether or not someone who witnessed a horrific attack was from down the street from me or not? I want to know that the people who were there are safe, and that Boston will be okay, and who did this, and how, and why. Saying someone who was there is a Canadian like me doesn’t make me want click on your stupid story. (I don’t know if your story is actually stupid. I didn’t click on it, because of the title.)

I am tired of seeing shit like what CNN did or what the New York Post did. It used to be that when something happened, you would hear about it and turn on CNN. They’d be on it. If CNN wasn’t working for you, there were other networks. Now everyone wants to be first, or most sensational or most gory. Last night, as the fires burned in Texas, I followed my friend’s tweets. She was reporting what the local news was reporting. I basically trusted someone livetweeting what was happening on her TV over news networks and news websites.

I don’t even fucking know where to go to get my news, because the news sure as hell isn’t bringing me it.

I realize that this is how a lot of it’s done, now. I get the part about social media, and about how everyone feels the need to be first. I get the part about our insatiable need for all of the details as quickly as possible. I get the part about how when you’re trying to make a living as a reporter, you have to do what it takes to keep your job as a reporter.

I don’t know enough about the media industry or its consumers to know if this will become how everyone reports news, or if this will eventually get better. Either way, I could never be a news reporter. Not because I feel like I am above all these things.

Because I’m scared I wouldn’t be.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 19, 2013 12:49 am

    Seeing as I tend to be a pretty practical person, I gave up on cable/TV news a long, long time ago, because there’s rarely, if ever, “news” there. I was reminded of this while having a sammich at my favorite place in PTBO on Monday when Evan Solomon, of, I couldn’t believe it, the CBC, was “reporting” over and over for what seemed like forever on the bombing and saying/showing nothing whatsoever of substance. I realized that the goddamn CBC, of all networks, was now not much better than CNN or Fox, just a little less breathless or strident.
    Like Michael Connelly once wrote about TV news people, “sourceless and senseless”. I’m just really glad you didn’t make it into the moronic cesspool that now passes for news coverage- I certainly wouldn’t be writing here on my friend Laura’s blog if you had.

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