An introduction to a five-part series on the importance of news media Part I
I remember when I was much younger and less cynical, I was standing in a checkout line under the bright fluorescent lights of a drugstore with my mom. My young mind wandered and I found myself staring down the front page of the World Weekly News, a fictional black and white tabloid.
The cover article featured Bat Boy, a terrifying child with giant ears and fangs, who gained popularity in the ‘90s. Bat Boy’s first headline was “BAT CHILD ESCAPES!” but his saga quickly became increasingly ridiculous. Future headlines read “BAT BOY SUES BATMAN IN PATERNITY SUIT” and “BAT BOY LEADS SPAIN TO WORLD CUP TITLE.”
“Why is news always so bad?” I asked my mom as she waited to pay for her items. “Why aren’t there any good newspapers?”
“Because no one would read them,” she scoffed.
This interaction has stuck with me for some time and I felt like it was a good idea to preface this message with it. I’m writing this to address the disconnect between the public and the news media.
I’m not a scholar of media or journalism and I don’t have decades of newspaper experience. But I am a news reporter at The West Side Journal and I hope to give some insight into the decision making and processes that go into our product.
A better answer than the one my mom gave me is that the news is bad, but for good reasons.
This column will be the first in a five-part series to address four major topics:
• How we decide on news stories
• How we report and write those stories
• Libel, satire and yellow journalism
• The future of news media
Journalists expect transparency and honesty from their sources, so I would like to provide some of the same thing to our readers. Our news office is small and informal, but we do try to deliver news that is pertinent to West Baton Rouge, the West Side, the Baton Rouge area and the state.
At the same time, I want to encourage readers to support other journalistic institutions, even if they sometimes disagree with the opinions that are expressed in their news articles.
Public distrust of the media is nothing new and it’s become even more pronounced than before. It is disappointing to me that highly regarded newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, are considered “liberal” or “left leaning” by many because of their willingness to investigate potential crimes in our highest levels of government.
On the other side of the coin, I am also disappointed by the pandering and agitation that passes for “news” by some media organizations today. Regardless of my opinion, I know that the media landscape is changing for one reason: Money, i.e. ad sales, which have mostly gone online.
I am confident that there will always be a market for the news in the future. Even if it is downloaded via cerebral microchip or taken as a suppository.
Journalists get things wrong. News stories can be boring. Unsolicited opinions are bad. And, yes, newspapers don’t usually contain good news. But they are vital to our community.
We need newspapers to maintain a healthy awareness of our neighborhoods, government and schools, for instance. I hope to go over these topics and more during the next few weeks.
Until then, happy reading.
Feel free to send your comments and letters to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.