I've come to hold a strong disdain for journalism. Now, this hardly includes the orthodox, Fourth Estate definition. This is about local news programs, talk radio, and consumer exposes. The current state of journalism disgusts me to no end.
The main culprit? The unenlightened selectorate. And newspapers's willingness to feed their fire.
Last night, I saw "The Queen"--an excellent film that was highly but appropriately critical of the press--and was reminded of every conference and seminar I've ever attended concerning journalism. Through my own devices, and fueled by my former aspirations, I jumped into the field with a reckless abandon. Tom Hallman, the Pulitzer Prize winning features writer for The Oregonian, inspired me after a lecture of his I attended, one of my first forays into the fray. His story (a shoddy student who made it almost entirely on passion and talent) kept me going. It had a semblance of romanticism, a trait that drew me to print in the first place.
But each conference, each seminar and stuffy newsroom I visited, ruined it for me. I'd look across a room of staff writers of the local daily and think, "Am I like them?" There was no "All the Kings' Men" here. Nothing jovial about it. These were self-indulgent pricks, asking rhetorical questions to constantly blab about their own op-ed. They'd puff their chests out to equally inept colleagues, dressed as horribly as one could imagine from sports to the obits, and mentally masturbate. I'm a misanthrope, sure, but these were the people that were supposed to educate me. The scribbling protectorate. Instead, I was surrounded by scowling, snide introverts, people whose eye never left the byline and feared their editors like they were the Reaper.
Back to "The Queen." One of the film's ongoing motifs is the destruction of polite society. The Queen of England, the rock-like institution, is forced to mobilize because of the press' song and dance routine. Because of the English peoples' poor judgment. Helen Mirren's character, in which she forcefully and brilliantly performs, thinks they'll come to their senses. Of course, they don't, and she is introduced to the sad reality that is the ignorant populous.
And it's all the press's fault. Advertising and circulation have put sales ahead of objectivity and sensationalizing a story is second-nature. Now, I'm no strong proponent for the traditional, House of Lords journalism. Blogs have essentially fostered a new generation of Hunter S. Thompsons, and the gonzos will probably do a fair job with a little more accountability.
The problem is that many still attribute authority to the press. Unfortunately, its like placing a bet on Barbaro now. It's becoming an outdated tradition, one that won't yield dividends in the future. Why? Because journalism is trying too hard. It's not natural, always restless, reckless, and jerky. It's adopted the group-think mentality of an idiotic people as to better appeal to them. A base marketing strategy, sure. One that might even be economically serviceable. But frustrating and even dangerous to anyone who might stand contrary to the status quo. Contrary to idiocy.
There aren't many things that are more irritating than an ignorant protester, a stupid and active citizen. But one that has a newspaper backing up his daft and barmy suspicions is much worse. Moreover? A whole mob of them.
I hate journalism because it has turned its back on reminding people they are dumb in favor of encouraging idiotic lunacy.
I hate journalism because it stopped telling me what to think and started asking me what I feel.