Some people still subscribe to newspapers in the hope of providing themselves with basic information on the current events of the day. And once upon a time, newspapers did just that. Older journalists worked very hard to keep their personal opinions, emotions, feelings, and biases away from their job of reporting the news.
Not anymore. Now newspaper reporters publicly celebrate their biases – flaunt them – and, as a result, journalism as a career is on life support.
Readers today expect reportage to be grossly untrue and biased and they are guided accordingly. More and more, newspapers bore voters. Most voters can tell you today how the newspapers will report on each and every debate next year between Donald Trump and whoever the Democrat candidate is. You could place a bet on it if anyone would take a bet on it but nobody will because everybody knows. So very predictable.
What happened to intellectual curiosity? Back during the day before yesterday, a reporter approached a story with an open, interested mind – excited by the prospects of where the story might take it. Not today. Now it is “time to make the donuts” – the work of drudgery – a fine cabinetmaker reduced to nailing together crates. Reporters have everything arranged in advance. The story is written before they write it. There are those with the white hats and them with the black – with 95 percent of the story slanted against the designated “baddies” and praising the “goodies” – and 5 percent reserved for a “response” from the “baddies” (which, in the course of a conversation with the reporter, is often turned into the worst bit). Journalism today is like writing while sleepwalking. A fiction produced through automatic writing.
Many reporters – the Star-Ledger’s Jonathan Salant comes to mind – cannot get their brains out of their comfortable suburban surroundings, the cozy press club, the shared prejudices and opinions. Never meeting another soul who is unlike them, they cannot imagine any way but their own. A machine stuck at one speed, one function, doing the same thing, grinding on until it burns out.
Then there are the activists. These are the so-called journalists who think it cool to show that they are compromised from the start, their minds made up. The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran laid in out last year when he wrote: “Voters will be standing in the booth Tuesday, and our core mission is helping them decide which lever to pull.” Sounds more like the “core mission” of a political operation than of journalism.
Of course, there still are some genuine journalists out there. A month before Moran wrote that stunning admission, the Atlantic City Press published an editorial which included these reassuring lines: “Telling readers how to vote, however, is contrary to the mission of newspapers and other media, which is to extend the public’s experience and perspectives. Newsgathering organizations give the public eyes, ears and memory beyond the capability of an individual.
People want them to be reliable and credible. When the media start making judgments, their audiences wonder if they’re altering their content to support that judgment too.”
Which brings us to Matt Arco of… you guessed it, the Star-Ledger. Why is Matt Arco number 34 on a list of 100 “LGBT Power” brokers? Why is that kind of self-defining celebrity necessary for a journalist? We thought he was covering the news, and here he is a power broker making the news. What is a journalist doing cheek-by-jowl on a list of politicians, lobbyists, and political operatives?
And why is he described as a “voice” when he should be a conduit of information, which is the heart and soul of journalism. Is anyone really looking for another celebrity “voice” shouting to be heard, telling us their feelings, thoughts, opinions – or do we want to be informed about what’s really going on? The title “political reporter” shouldn’t be meant literally.
How can a journalist who allows himself to be placed on a celebrity “power” list be taken seriously? As one of the top named members of a political identity group, how can we expect Matt Arco to fairly and honestly cover stories concerning religious groups with theological traditions that don’t line up with the policy agenda of his political identity group? Groups such as Biblical Christians, Torah Jews, and adherent Muslims.
How can Matt Arco be expected to fairly and honestly cover a candidate or political organization whose positions or platform is not in agreement with the positions and platform of his political identity group – of which he is the 34th most powerful operative in the state? Having Matt Arco cover the Republican Party is like sending Ann Coulter to cover the Democrats. It’s not fair or honest.