Back when Paleolithic man ruled the world, humans only learned what was happening outside their cave when another caveman rode into town on his velociraptor.
Soon, dinosaurs evolved into horses (duh, that’s just science) and traveling merchants shared stories and events as they roamed the country. They’d sit around campfires, making s’mores and spreading gossip. In cities, town criers walked the streets in ridiculous outfits, ringing bells and shouting information at passersby.
When Johannes Gutenberg mechanized the printing process, he started a revolution that led to books, newspapers and inexpensive bird cage lining. Town criers became journalists, people dedicated to the pursuit of truth, shining a light on injustice and living on hot coffee and cold pizza.
America’s Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the press, protecting free speech in the first amendment. Journalists were regarded as necessary vermin, an invaluable cog in the democratic process of checks and balances.
Distinguished reporters like Carl Bernstein, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite took journalism to its apex before its Icarus-like plunge into the mud of “journalism” today.
With the introduction of the Internet Machine, news has changed. A flood of misinformation is available at our fingertips and anyone can post “news” and share it as reality. Your crazy Uncle Joe has the ability to post his conspiracy theories as fact, while negating facts as theories. (Yes, I’m talking to you, holocaust deniers and urine therapy adherents.)
As newspapers fold and journalists are fired, consumers must find their way in a wild wilderness, navigating blogs, podcasts, posts, tweets, forums and websites, searching for truth, justice and the American way.
On TV, Barbie and Ken dolls throw softball questions at politicians, making no effort to hide their biases. They’re like balloon bouquets; pretty to look at and fun for a while, but then they float creepily through your home, lurking in doorways and scaring the Skittles out of you at 3 a.m.
Sponsored content (advertorials) sneak their way into news broadcasts and articles, looking like journalism, but in reality they are just fancy ads. Usually, readers don’t even know. Journalists have become public relations specialists, crafting news instead of reporting it.
On top of all that, our president declared war on the press. The U.S. just ranked 45th on the World Press Freedom Index, coming in behind places like Bahari, Namibia and Sokovia. (Only one of those countries is real, but I’m presenting it as fact. Most readers don’t bother discovering the truth.)
Do reporters pick on Trump? Yes. Does he deserve it? Maybe not all the time. Maybe. But his anti-press pomposity further erodes the faith we’ve placed in our news agencies as his bellowing cry of “Fake news!” rings from media outlets.
Investigative journalists are an endangered species. It seems little vetting, research or fact-checking is being done. It’s more important to have the story first – even if it’s inaccurate. Wikipedia isn’t research. (I know that, because I looked up journalism on Wikipedia and it said, “This is not a news source.”) Here are other things that aren’t news sources: Facebook, Twitter, hateful bloggers and venom-spewing talk show hosts.
In 2009, I wrote a column, grumbling about the sensationalizing of stories where a celebrity’s activities were treated as breaking news. (FYI: It’s not.) Things have only gone downhill since then.
There are many journalists still working hard to present the truth, but it’s getting harder to hear their voices over the screeching of velociraptors, the screaming of town criers and the bellicose rants of our leaders.
No news isn’t good news. No news is no news.