DIARIO DI MAMMA
Despite my past as part of the press (as evidenced by the badges above), I am having serious problems with my first love Journalism. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio
We have problems. You have let me down in so many ways that I’m not sure we can go on. Yet, I can’t let you go. I need you for my very survival. I studied you in high school, at the George Washington University, and on the streets of Manhattan. I put all my faith in you in the hopes that we could give voice to the people’s grievances, call out the wrong doers, shine a light on the do gooders, and level the playing field for everyone. At first, anything seemed possible as long as I was holding your hand. We were part of the fourth estate of government, a necessity to checks and balances. In high school, we railed against censorship together. In college, we had the town talking about the party culture and rape on campus long before anyone else was. Our friends there stuck it to the campus leaders when they were being shady or downright lying. After college, our words contributed to discussions about college admissions, its return on investment, and cheaters in MBA programs.
We seemed poised to keep everything in order, help people who needed it, forge stronger communities, and even protect democracy. We’d have to do it all while making money because this is capitalist America, and you’re a powerless nobody without some green. No matter how strong your message, how honest you are, or how beloved, you need cold hard cash, baby. It’s a fact, even if a disturbing one some young people would rather ignore.
Perhaps, that was our problem. Perhaps, I rested too much on our shoulders. No one can do all that and make a buck. Now, we’ve both collapsed. To be fair, I gave up on you years ago. We haven’t been together for some time now. Instead, I’ve watched you from afar, from my couch and desk chair. I’ve read your words in papers, such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time magazine, and I’ve seen your programming on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News (yes, that qualifies as news nowadays). Much like a stalker girlfriend, I’m more into you now than when we were together. I consume you daily, as much as possible, and keep trying to figure out where we went wrong.
For starters, bloggers, some of whom have no professional training, have taken over. They do indeed make money. They’re not all bad. I’m trying to navigate this new world now. It’s hard and unjust. Your writing and communication skills matter far less than the number of followers you have on social media. Frankly, it never was a journalist’s job to make friends. That was kind of the point. Now, your friends – virtual or actual – is how people judge you to be good and important. Those who can say the most shocking and provocative things – regardless of whether they are true – in 140 characters or less are rewarded with riches. I’m not sure Walter Cronkite would have made it. What’s most difficult is not letting your grief and disappointment drown you, so that you stop trying to be heard about whatever topic is on your mind.
Let’s look on the bright side. As promoter of the underdog and believer in the general public, Journalism, you have to feel good about so many more people having access to our leaders and an ability to share their opinions. That’s a win, as is the ability to research people, places, and events at lightning speed. Checking the spelling of a source’s name once could take a couple days and include phone tag. Now, a Google search usually will suffice. The purveyors of you, Journalism, can work from almost anywhere and spread news of the minute (not just the day or week) in mere seconds.
But maybe you let the power get to your head, or you just didn’t know what to do with these newfound conveniences. You blew it. Now was the time you should have become stronger and better. Instead, you let other people figure out ways to do your job and make money at it. Still, they pale in comparison to you.
The guys with your name now are on cable, for example, and are fighting for ratings, social media followers, ad dollars, and attention. There is no question that all this stuff gets in the way of informing people about what they need to know. Your true love print has been dead even longer. No one is even bothering to visit the gravestone.
And your partners can’t be at all intellectual. That’s akin to being snotty and losing followers. At one of my most recent reporting jobs – where I was reporting on love and sex mind you – I received downloads that spit out the grade level of my writing. Most of the time it was at the high school or college level, even when writing things, such as “How to Talk Dirty During Sex” and “Should You Ever Lie to Your Spouse?” I was told to dumb it down for a general audience because that would improve traffic. Stories, apparently, should never go above the middle school level. It never happened. That’s really when I knew it was over. The writing, literally, was on the wall (of my home office). If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pay bills, and I invested so much of my time, energy, and heart in you, we’d be completely through.
A tear is rolling down my cheek now. I woke up this morning to so-called reporters, in the name of objectivity, treating with kid gloves the Republican nominee for president after he essentially suggested the assassination of his opponent, heaped praise on our enemy Vladimir Putin, and labeled the first black President of the United States Barack Obama the founder of the terrorist organization ISIL. I get wanting to be fair to both sides. I do. It’s part of the training you gave us, Journalism. But you also taught us that we must check power. We must help people sniff out the naive, dangerous, or dictatorial.
Yes, go through Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, tell the world about her Pinocchio noses, condemn her and her husband for playing the insider’s game, and certainly alert us if they are breaking the law. That’s your job. But don’t act as though this rhetoric of Donald Trump’s is like any other political ploy simply because you don’t want to look like you’re taking sides. It could have grave consequences in a country rife with guns and boiling over with anger. We’ve already experienced the collective broken hearts when our great leaders have been assassinated. It wasn’t all that long ago, in fact. If it happens again, blood will be on your hands, Journalism. You are already late to this one. You should have warned the world of this danger sooner. It should have happened on day one of Trump’s campaign with the insinuation that Mexicans were rapists. This is about more than my disappointment in you. I am a mother, and I want leaders with a moral compass and dignity and diplomacy to lead my son’s future. That’s not this. Not even close, and you know it.
I want to believe, Journalism, you are going to do the right thing here. The lives of my son and everyone’s children hang in the balance. You must understand what’s happening. After all, no one knows better than you how much words really matter. Don’t let us down.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.