JOURNALISM AS WE KNOW IT IS DYING BUT IT SHOULDN’T GO CALMLY INTO THE NIGHT
Is this the death knell for the fourth estate?
Say it isn’t so.
If you come across the end of TV Patrol these days, you will be greeted by a man dressed in a suit of varied absurd colors moving from side to side, wiggling his legs alongside an animated Christmas elf. This is the face of our local news today. Is it any wonder, then, why we are the way we are? When the news is treated as a joke, how are we supposed to understand everything that is happening around us?
Watching the local news is an ordeal, a challenge to even the most patient and reasonable of people. TV Patrol most especially is the perfect example of the current state of news with its importance on ignorant punditry disguised as reportage, it’s emphasis on CCTV news, and showcase of “citizen journalism.” Broadcast journalism is dead, and in its place is an ugly hydra of clowns, gossipmongers, and panic pushers; a.k.a. Noli De Castro, Ted Failon, and whichever unlucky woman they put between them. Their success lies solely in their familiarity. They’ve been news anchors for so long that their faces equate to news itself. De Castro and Failon know just how much power and influence they have, and they use it to push whatever agenda they have that day. Primetime news has become pundit hour for people like them, the news playing second fiddle to their opinions. They’ve warped TV journalism into a twisted reality talk show where their views shape the news.
I’d like to believe that this form of stupidity is an isolated case but TV Patrol’s current state is only a symptom of a greater disease. No one is immune to the decline of the fourth estate. Our mainstream broadsheets for instance read like glorified tabloids. Our papers, once owned by pioneers of local journalism, are now under the control of big business, or are being run to the ground by undeserving heirs. And in their waning moments and days of twilight, they choose not to fight the system. They are content to merely fade away.
But the state of media today can’t be blamed on a few old igno- rant men. It’s reshaped to cater to a new generation that prefers easily digested, bite-size content. Today, instead of having a dedicated team of investigative and long-form journalists, they employ savvy social media experts who condense the news into 140 characters. The media today is reactive. They wait on their asses, fingers resting on keyboards as they wait for the next breaking news to drop.
The fourth estate used to be more than this. They didn’t answer to anyone except the truth. Today they answer to money, or worse, celebrity. To their defense, if you ask anyone in media today, most will say that they are only giving the audience what they want. But what the audience wants isn’t always what it needs. The news has become fast food. Yes it’s become more available but it now caters to the lowest common denomination, and losing all its meaning and value in the process. Look at any news website today and 90 percent of it is fluff and half-baked. Excusing actual content for the promise of clicks.
Aspiring journalists today must now forget all the principles and values they learned in J-school in favor of dumbing down their content for hits. Because at the end of the day, big money and advertisers don’t care about actual news or responsible reporting—they only care about hits. Of course this pales in comparison to media being supplanted by celebrity. These days, it’s the celebrity that reigns supreme. The fourth estate now caters to the whims of the latest starlet or love team or It Girl instead of holding its ground on something far more concrete than fame. Once credible news organizations are now being forced to restructure themselves to look more like TMZ whether they care to admit it or not. It’s become so commonplace that most publications now are too insecure to try anything new and just rely on the comfort that “celebrity always sells,” never occurring to them that this industry wasn’t built to sell celebrities in the first place. Media becomes as shallow and as fleeting as the very people they follow.
Journalism shouldn’t go calmly into the night. Old journalism, real journalism, stood for something that new media will never understand. Journalism is its own goal, the existence of a worthy story more valuable than any number of clicks or shares. It doesn’t need to be viral, or enveloped in the cast off shine of celebrity. There’s already so much stupid in the world; journalism shouldn’t be one of them.
Old journalism, real journalism, stood for something that new media will never understand.