Newsroom ‘Passion’

August 27, 2015

newsmanBright sunshine again this near-noon Thursday on California’s north coast with rain forecast for tomorrow, but now the window’s way-narrow, maybe just for late Friday and early Saturday — abbreviated endurance.
Simply just as the NWS notes: ‘Be ready for brief wet weather this weekend.’

Meanwhile, state of the atmosphere in journalism really, really sucks, which in turn, speaks volumes for the horrifying state of America.

(Illustration found here).

Yesterday morning, the early news feed played-out like scenes off a reenactment from ‘Most Wanted‘ — and dramatic, insane footage: ‘“Everybody who was gathered around it said, ‘That’s Vester,'” the general manager, Jeffrey Marks, told TODAY in a live interview on Thursday. “And I wasn’t sure. They were.”
Journalists, technicians in the newsroom of WDBJ TV in Roanoke, Virginia, were watching tape of the killer of reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward, just moments after he shot them dead, live on the air.

The shooter was apparently an incompetent, thin-skinned journalist himself — some in Florida could maybe feel fortunate:

Meteorologist Nancy Dignon also worked with Vester Flanagan at NBC News 40 in Tallahassee in the late 90’s.
Dignon says Flanagan anchored the 6 and 11pm newscasts with her on the weekends.
“We are all in disbelief – and quite shaken by this,” Dignon said.
“We knew he was volatile, but we never thought in our wildest dreams that he was capable of something like this.”

The story is all over the InterWebs, of course, and rightly so. Two young workers in media became the story themselves, though, not from action on their part. Once original, now a TV news stand-up could be hazardous to your health.
Such as this from another 24-year-old news reporter, Abby Norman, with a piece via HuffPost:

I was afraid. I admit it. I was afraid.
Because if Alison Parker, who is my age, and doing the same work I’m doing — telling local stories of local people in what she thought was a small, safe little town, trying to make a name for herself in a field that we share a passion for — could be GUNNED DOWN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, then why should I feel safe?
I always thought, well, as long as I’m not reporting in a war-torn country, as long as I’m not Christiane Amanpour, as long as I stay out of metropolitan areas, I’m safe aren’t I?

But I can tell you this:
I have never woken up wondering if I would get killed in the field, my blazer and press badge and passion no armor, no bullet-proof vest.

Key word, ‘passion,’ especially used in the phrase, ‘we share a passion for‘ — the sense of people who see the profession of journalism as more than just a job, more than even making real money, in a ‘field‘ to make a difference. As a reporter/writer-product from the newspaper newsrooms of the 1970s — carried then with a ‘passion‘ fueled by Watergate, and the sense we’re all involved in weird, wacky and wonderful work — I strongly believe journalism should always be reality-based, and confrontational.
Nowadays, though, journalism is still weird and wacky, but not-at-all wonderful. News aimed at the average joe-on-the-street sucks through a way-small straw.

Case in point started Tuesday night with a dust-up between Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, and Donald Trump at a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, and this whole matter has also plastered the InterWebs, but the after-effects make for some dumb-ass journalism. During a press conference, Ramos almost-immediately started questioning The Donald about his horrific ‘immigration plans (via Media Matters):

“Mr. Trump, I have a question,” said Jorge Ramos, the top news anchor at Univision and one of the country’s most recognizable Mexican-Americans, as he stood up in the front row of journalists.
“Excuse me,” the Republican presidential front-runner told Ramos. “Sit down. You weren’t called. Sit down.”

One must really, really keep in mind with any dealings/stories/interviews on any media with The Donald — the asshole is way-thin-skinned, too. And quick to prove it.
Apparently, from what I’ve gathered, the procedure for these-type media events is for reporters to start questioning usually without being called upon, ‘which is the typical etiquette for in-person press briefings,’ and Ramos was subsequently hustled by security out of the conference.
Freakishly weird. A good background-detail to the incident can be found at Vox, which also included this:

The rules of political journalism are that when a political figure says he isn’t taking questions, it’s okay to shout whenever, just in case he or she (or a staffer) gets tempted into answering.
But when there’s an organized press conference in which the figure is taking questions — especially once one journalist has been called on — other journalists are supposed to respect order.
Some journalists agree that Ramos was out of line, but stress that it didn’t justify his physical removal.
It’s not totally unheard of for people to shout out of turn at press conferences, and such people are generally ignored rather than bounced.

The Donald has a grudge against Univison, however, so out goes Ramos. He came back later and eventually got to question The Donald, but what did that foster? Nothing. How the living shit can one explain how 11 million people would/could be quickly moved from the US? Just scream, ‘Go back to Univision,’ instead.
Real journalism bullshit came yesterday, as the MSM got their collective asses tweaked into a bind.

Details at Quartz this morning, in a piece written by Jake Flanagin aimed at the non-journalism at play, and the hole in the heart of the GOP:

In the aftermath, a number of journalists openly criticized Ramos’s tactics.
Politico’s Marc Caputo called it bias—“taking the news personally, explicitly advocating an agenda.”
The Washington Post’s Michael E. Miller called Ramos a “conflict junkie.”
Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough accused the veteran newsman of trying to snag his “15 minutes of fame” — a rather amusing statement, considering the fact that an average of 2 million viewers tune into watch Ramos host Noticiero Univision each night, while Morning Joe regularly comes in dead last, ratings-wise.

This kind of criticism smacks of privilege and respectability politics.
Dan Rather has been lionized for repeatedly, aggressively confronting US politicians.
What Ramos did was no different.
And in refusing to play nicely with Donald Trump — a man who smugly refuses to play nicely with Hispanic Americans — Ramos is bringing to the forefront a segment of US society, that while often overlooked, refuses to be invisible in 2016.
In a way, Joe Scarborough’s comments are the most telling.
Across the country, countless white viewers were undoubtedly asking themselves, “Who is this guy?”
They should probably ask the more than 50 million native Spanish speakers residing in the United States — surpassing the entire population of Spain.
The rules of media etiquette may have worked for Joe Scarborough and company, but they have systemically marginalized journalists of color, and the communities they serve, for decades.

And this also from a like-piece by Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept:

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession.
A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sit by quietly and pretend to have no opinions on any of it and that “both sides” are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity?
As Ramos put it simply, in what should not even need to be said: “I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions. What’s ‘totally out of line’ is to eject a reporter from a press conference for asking questions.”

Somewhere, though, the MSM is sick of it — Charles Blow, op/ed writer at the New York Times, also this morning, gauges the reality journalism:

The Ramos episode wasn’t worse than these; it was just the last straw.
A member of the media who dared to raise a truly substantive issue, even out of turn, was dismissed and removed.
And yet the band played on.
The live coverage continued.
In that moment, I was disgusted at Trump’s contempt and the press’s complicity in the shallow farce that is his candidacy.
Trump is addicted to press, but the press is also addicted to him, and the entire spectacle is wide and shallow.

The media is being trolled on a massive scale and we look naïve and silly to have fallen for it, even if he draws readers and viewers.
When people refer to the press as the fourth estate, it shouldn’t be confused with a Trump property.

And telling about the American mindset…
One video-clip out of this particular event seems to enumerate the foolish, obstinate and sad state of America — after Ramos was ejected from The Donald’s press conference, he was verbally-accosted in the hallway outside by a Trump supporter — the clip can be found at both Vox and Quartz links above (transcript at Quartz):

“Get out of my country,” the man said.
“I’m a US citizen,” Ramos retorted.
“Well, whatever,” he huffed. “Univision, no. It’s not about you.”
“It’s not about you,” Ramos replied. “It’s about the United States.”

Sad and disturbing…