If you’ve been reading my ramblings since my LJ days or we’re friends IRL, you’d know my background is in journalism—not in the “I studied it in undergrad then went into marketing” kind of way but in the “I studied it in undergrad, became editor of the school paper, interned at a bunch of small daily newspapers in small Virginia towns until one hired me when I graduated, got laid off in the recession, moved to New York City jobless until an international trade publication hired me to write about mostly US intellectual property law, felt stifled by the lack of post-non-IP-law options that didn’t involve writing five 300-word articles a day, or writing listicles, or moving back to a small town to be the only person not of a certain hue in a five-state radius, went back to school to study the dark side, THEN went into marketing” kind of way.
It’s a special kind of crazy. Not only can I read a sensational article and know it’s sensational; or question the veracity of an article (and be totally excited by the opportunity to use “veracity” in a sentence); or know the difference between a well-informed opinion piece, an investigative piece, a shit blog post, and a tweet by a troll (even when that troll runs for president); I can also say that my first instinct when some weird shit is going down is to go check it out and take pictures.
Because what’s the point of weird shit going down if you can’t tell people about it?
Journalism, of course, has been getting a lot of crap from His Royal Cheeto (also known as: The Dictatingest Orangey Dictator, He Who Can’t Read Or Speak Good, and Damn He Racist). But to be honest, journalists didn’t really help themselves leading up to what is now what I call the Everything Is Terrible era.
First, there was the sense of complacency during the Obama era, as if all was well and good because we elected a black president (go us, amiright?). Second, fluffery was so encouraged that listicles became a thing and even reputable newspapers started running blog posts masquerading as articles that often made me want to yell on a crowded train: “Et tu, WaPo?” Third—and this is a big third—journalists willfully ignored the basics, all for the sake of amassing clicks for His Royal Cheeto’s latest fuckery.
Like how you’re not supposed to broadcast some crazy comment some famous person said without context (A headline that says “‘Everyone’s an alien,’ says His Royal Cheeto” is different from one that says “‘Fringe presidential candidate His Royal Cheeto says everyone’s an alien, which is clearly not true and WTF why are we covering what this dumbass says anyway oh right because we’re like totally getting all the clicks, bye integrity, bye soul that I’ve discarded in the recycling bin a while back but yay recycling”).
That said, there are a few not so terrible things in the Everything Is Terrible era:
It’s forcing journalists to get their shit together—I’m looking at you, WaPo, NYT and a Bernsteiny (he of Watergate creds) CNN.
People are starting to pay attention to what makes this country run.
So much so that courts even trend on Twitter sometimes.
And bills don’t go on the chopping block without someone somewhere raising a big stink about it.
Even better, people are getting off their asses to raise a big stink (I’m talking about they of the non tiki torch-wielding, white-hooded variety, of course. Those folks can stay on their asses, thank you very much).
Which, for our typically complacent selves, is a big deal. After all, it’s much harder to ignore actual masses of people on the street than it is to ignore viral RTs. IRL protests do what tweets can’t, just as a tweet thread can articulate what a quippy line on a poster can’t.
Together, they empower those in power who still have a soul to get their shit together.
Which is why public opinion is the most powerful thing there is. Without it, journalism just doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, it’s the public who can force politicians to pivot, companies to delete ill-timed tweets, a show runner to write unrealistic happy endings for their characters (I’m looking at you, PLL), and for Taylor Swift to finally release a song.
It can even topple shitty leaders.
if I had to sum this post up in one tweet:
Let’s keep on keeping on.