John Temple, writing for The Atlantic:
I was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver when the Columbine High School shootings gripped the nation in 1999. The Columbine attack was covered live on cable and broadcast television. At the time we thought it would be the mass shooting to end all mass shootings. How could we let anything so horrible happen again? Especially after seeing what we had all seen.
I believed that if journalists did our job well, if we provided independent, fact-based reporting, citizens would make informed choices and make our country better, as night would follow day. That’s the way things are supposed to work.
We kept at it even as we heard from many readers asking us to stop. Hostility against the press got so bad that we had people throwing snowballs with rocks in them at our photographers. Many people just wanted to be left alone.
It’s a heartfelt piece from a former journalist who seems to have gotten fed up with his inability to effect change with his work.
He wrote about “independent, fact-based reporting” influencing “informed choices” which is all very journalistic. It’s his desire to “make our country better” that derails the endeavor.
Independence and objectivity can’t exist in an environment driven by an agenda, even one as altruistic as ending violence or curtailing mass shootings.
“Fake news” is a term that’s become so imbued with connotation from all sides that it’s almost meaningless. My view of it is pretty simple: Any news written with bias — positive, negative, left or right — can’t be purely objective and thus contains some amount of fakeness.
I can’t speak for the readers of the Rocky Mountain News, but I know I’d get sick of content that parades as news but is written with the intent to preach. Informing and preaching are two very different things.
News is meant to inform, to educate and to help people make better decisions.
News that’s written with what those better decisions should be embedded in it — consciously or subconsciously — stops being news and starts being propoganda.
It’s journalism with an agenda.