Journalists regularly face grave danger, especially overseas in war zones, and in countries where the government does not respect freedom of the press. The very nature of the craft, which shines light on corruption, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, often times puts journalists at odds with very dangerous people. I am sad to say the shooting that left five dead at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis is just another example of this.
Those that commit crimes against journalists always have one motive in common, even if they deny it themselves, and that is fear. In a world where words seemingly get diluted by the sheer volume of articles, Facebook posts and Twitter opinions, a well-researched article put together by a credible source still stands tall, and will always do so, if it contains the truth. Because the truth doesn’t care what you think of it, nor does attacking those that speak it makes it go away. Truth is reality itself, and its something you have no control over, and that can be frightening if you don’t like the truth.
We live in an age fraught with propaganda and lies, not that this is any different than how things used to be, just with how tied to technology we are, it is more blatant and present at a volume previously not possible. There are entire media organizations whose whole purpose is to craft perceived realities for their audiences – echo chambers if you will – and whether these echo chambers mimic or report on reality is inconsequential, so long as nobody question them, which unfortunately, is exactly what traditional media outlets are meant to do.
Because the truth often is ugly. It’s uncomfortable. But most of all, it’s right. Convenient lies, no matter how comfortable or great they might seem, can’t solve anything, because at the end of the day, what those lies are telling you isn’t true, and the reality it is trying to sell you isn’t real.
In order to navigate the 21st century mediascape, you must have a nuanced understanding of the media, and know that while there are legitimate problems in the industry, such as said fake news outlets – and I’m not talking about the CNNs or Washington Posts of the world, so much as the Infowars and Daily Mails – increased polarization, an absence of fair and balanced coverage, and anything that comes with running a media platform as a for-profit business rather than a nonprofit organization (at the end of the day, altruism doesn’t necessarily cover the bills or cost of production), but there are also plenty of good people in this industry that do amazing work for the public good, and while televised media might largely give you a warped perception of the world because of the type of stories they hyper-focus on, I’m a firm believer that print media, specifically local print media, often gets as close as it can to giving fair coverage to news that matters.
The tragedy that happened at the Capital Gazette is a product of a vile culture that has attacked all media for the overblown wrongdoings of a few large outlets. It emboldens those much like the shooter, who are validated by claims of media bias everywhere, specifically from President Donald Trump, whose abuse of the word “fake news” has made that word come to mean any news coverage that makes you look bad. People like the Gazette shooter have always existed and will continue to exist, especially in America, but when we are peddling this impression that the media as a whole is our enemy, people like the shooter are more likely to act out in destructive ways, creating a chilling effect industrywide. Since the Trump presidency, journalists have had to pick and choose their battles and I fear that the Capital Gazette shooting will not produce the only domestic martyrs in this field in the coming months and years ahead.
America has always been a haven for freedom of the press, and the fact that we seem to be slowly stepping away from that should be alarming, especially in an era where anyone with a smartphone is at least a citizen journalist.
This is not to say that we can blame Trump for the Capital Gazette shooting, but he has helped create an environment where such acts of violence against journalists are more likely to happen in a country that despite his best effort, remains to be a pillar of free speech and freedom of the press. President Trump is the first American politician in recent years that has successfully waged war with the media itself, negligent of the important function that media has in our society.
And despite it all, the media will march on, just like the brave journalists at the Capital Gazette did.