By Mike Brannen
If there is one resolution journalists should honor in 2015, I suggest the end of journalist shaming. From the widely-circulated articles to the less-public comments, the assault on journalists who make mistakes (particularly the unintentional ones) must stop.
The Columbia Journalism Review’s “Worst Journalism of 2014” picked people and agencies that it felt was worthy of disgracing. Even if you agree with the list, my question is whether this was necessary to create, or even publish. Sure, it picked up readers (particularly current and former journalists), but at what cost? Does the value of page hits outweigh the need to throw journalists and agencies under the bus? I denounce the public condescension and insulting of media for personal gain. The discrediting of others only breeds more division within media, and more disgust between media and the audience. The impact of such hatred is more toxic than constructive.
Digging a bit deeper, Media Bistro covers “the news about local news.” It finds the interesting, quirky, controversial, and funny stories that happen at TV affiliates across the country. While Media Bistro professionally removes its opinions from the article it posts, the controversial stories unsurprisingly results in some nasty comments. I surmise the readers making comments here are mostly like the ones who read the CJR; they are likely current and former newsies. It is disappointing that journalists make vile judgements through a pseudonym. There is nothing for them to gain by making an anonymous comment; it merely is a cheap shot.
I do not support plagiarism, lies, the deliberate distortion of facts, and many other unacceptable intentional behaviors some journalists perform. However, we should not feel obligated to pounce on the failure of others in order to attract public favor for ourselves.
Let’s dedicate the next year to encouraging and supporting the anchors, reporters, editors, producers, and photographers who are sincerely working hard, and yet are still prone to making mistakes. If that happens, I’ll reserve my opinions to myself.
Mike Brannen is a newscast producer for KSTP, the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Before that, he was a producer for KIRO7 in Seattle, where he led the 4:30 a.m. show to a #1 share in the U.S. for that time slot. He received an MA in Broadcast Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010 and received his Bachelor of Journalism degree the year before. He shares more about his life at mikebrannen.com.