Media ‘agendas’ and ‘crappy’ reporting have been the topics of many Facebook rants and posts; even more so in the past couple of years. While valid points are often made, there is a lot more to the media than meets the eye. I know; because I was the media.
The Media From the Inside
I worked for a local news company for almost a year as both a reporter and a site administrator. This gave me a unique perspective on the news that I really hadn’t had before.
As a reporter, I saw all that goes into writing an article. As a site administrator I monitored comments and saw all the (very strong) opinions that readers had on how the reporting was done, what was being published, and why it was wrong or right.
There were a lot of things that I noticed readers consistently complaining about. Things such as updates weren’t coming fast enough, a certain photo shouldn’t have been used, not enough information was given, etc.
After spending a year sitting in a news room I saw all that goes into news production. I saw all the phone calls that had to be made to confirm one sentence. All the searches that had to be done to find one photo. I watched reporters work 60 hour weeks working on stories to then receive comments saying that it was ‘crappy reporting’.
Of course, there are sketchy sources, and reporters that don’t do their research; but what a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that the things that they complain about can, often, be easily explained.
WHy that photo?
Something that I see a lot of people get upset about is when a photo of a criminal that is shared with an article is a headshot or a Facebook profile picture rather than a mug shot.
While there are times when this is a conscious decision, there are also times when it is the only possible option.
Mug shots often have to be obtained from the police station. Sometimes the turnaround is quick, and other times it takes a couple of days. At that point most sources will opt to use a ‘nice’ photo of the criminal that they have found, or gotten permission to use, rather than having no photo at all.
This is just one example why a certain photo may be shown with an article.
When it comes to today’s news, a photo is necessary, people won’t give an article a second glance if there is no photo.
Sometimes a photo is easy to find or obtain permission to use, while other times it requires multiple searches and phone calls to make it happen.
Photos are often used because that is what is available, not because it fits the ‘agenda’.*
Lack of Information
In order to remain a credible source, reporters must use credible sources. This means that even if there are rumors about why an event happened, or details about that event, they cannot be published until they are confirmed.
If reporters included rumors heard from Joe down the street in their articles then they are no better than The Enquirer. A good reporter gets confirmation from the police department, Public Information Officers, witnesses, etc.
This means that when information is being withheld or updates are not given quickly, it is not necessarily an attempt to shape the publics’ opinion or hide something. The reason may simply be because the information has not been confirmed by the necessary sources.
These are just a couple examples of misconceptions that I have seen from the other side.
I no longer work in the news business, but my time there taught me to give reporters the benefit of the doubt.
No, not all reporters deserve it. Sometimes there is an agenda, and reporting is biased. But there are a lot of people out there who truly are just trying to report the news.
It is important to remember that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in a news office and a lot of time and effort is put into what is released*. In the future, try to take a moment and see things from the reporters’ perspective before jumping to conclusions.
*DISCLAIMER: This does not apply to all reporters or all media sources. I am well aware that there are biased reporters, reporters that don’t put any time into what they publish, and certain sources that do have goals in mind other than informing the public of news. My explanations, obviously, do not apply to them. I am also aware that local media and national media are two different entities and that not all of my explanations may apply to national sources.