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Cervantes: In defense of journalists

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | JANUARY 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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It seems as if a lot of iconic, All-American individuals are falling out of the public’s good graces nowadays. First there was “7th Heaven” star Stephen Collins, who admitted to “inappropriate sexual conduct with three female minors.” Next there was Bill Cosby, who faces more than 27 allegations of sexual assault. Most recently, though albeit less high profile, there is the case of an ex-volunteer firefighter in Milwaukee who has been charged with child molestation and owning child pornography.

Last week, I discussed these events with one of my friends in my home state of California. He wondered, “Why do journalists spend all their time trying to bring heroes down?”

As a columnist and journalism major, misconceptions like the one my friend holds really strike a nerve in me. When I tell people that I’m a journalism major, they react as if my very outlook on life to find the worst in people and exploit it for my own financial gains. To most, a journalist is a word synonymous with that of a carnivore, one that looks for the juiciest bit of meat to sink its teeth into.

And whatever little critter is in my way better get out of my way as long as I get my prize.

There is a reason that journalists come off as cold to some people. It is not because we don’t care about the individuals affected in the stories that we write — we do immensely. It is just that we know how to focus ourselves in way that must professions can’t.

The very lifestyle of journalists is to report. That means they have to report anything that the public needs to know, regardless of the subject matter. If we allowed ourselves to be clouded by the emotional turmoil that was packaged with a truly devastating and empathetically painful event, then our ability to do our jobs is hindered in such a way that the quality produced wouldn’t be worth reading.

When I explained this to my friend, he went around and then said “Well, why do reporters lie then?”
If only I could have given him a bop on the head through Skype.

Journalists, at least quality journalists, don’t lie. While a “bigger” story may be a wonderfully welcome challenge, there is rule when it comes to finding a big story. That rule is, to lie is to die. If any reporter is caught forging and/or misrepresenting evidence, then that person’s entire career is called in to question. Even if that time was the first time he or she lied, every other professional work he or she produces will forever be seen as suspicious and untrustworthy. And just like that, a promising career is flushed down the toilet.

The work that journalists do is difficult. Not only do they have to deal with negative connotations directed toward their career choice, but there is the matter of seeing the absolute worst events possible and then creating an unbiased article to deliver to the same public that creates the previously mentioned connotations. For us to lie would be a waste of all the effort that was put in.

My biggest hope for this column is that the audiences of news media realize that journalists are not heartless, that we are not colder than a Midwest winter. I want everyone to know that we are simply doing what we believe is necessary in order for the news to reach you, the public, who have a right to know.

I just hope it’s not too much to ask.


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