When I watched Anderson Cooper’s heartfelt tribute to the victims of Orlando, I was reminded of the beauty of true and pure journalism. In its essence, journalism is honest and it is humanizing. It portrays the darkness in the world, but celebrates the humanity despite.
I read the news, but I don’t enjoy it.
I am upset often by the content of what is reported – war, greed, bigotry.
But more so, I am upset by how the news is portrayed.
I remember I used to want to be a journalist. I remember being in Mr. Wallach’s English class in 11th grade, and learning about Gonzo Journalism and reading Hell’s Angels by Hunter S Thompson. For my gonzo journalism essay I went to People’s Park in Berkeley to report on homelessness. Reluctantly I was escorted by my mother who compromised by sitting 20 feet behind me.
Under my guise as a “a reporter”, I bravely and boldly asked questions from behind the ballpoint pen I carried. I asked an older homeless man why he was homeless. He very rationally explained something about money being stolen from him, and bad luck, and bad people, and something about drugs, and losing his house, and not being able to or not wanting to make any changes. That that’s just the way things go.
I remember I thought I was going to feel a lot of sympathy for the homeless after spending a day interviewing them, but that wasn’t how I felt. If anything, I remember that was the first time I understood that people fall to vice, and that bad things happen in the world, both self-inflicted and as a matter of circumstance.
I don’t remember enjoying this revelation, but I did enjoy being able to talk with a subculture of society that I had never interacted with before. I felt like I was learning more about humanity and this world and I liked that.
Somewhere along the line I didn’t pursue becoming a journalist… that dream never made it beyond the basement of Barrows Hall when I was a journalist at the university radio station, 90.7 KALX.
The media is powerful. It has been designed to be the main avenue by which we can discover what is happening in the world.
Yet news breathes life into wrong-doers by disproportionately giving attention to them and to the negativity surrounding an event. Quantitative statistics are headlined and bolded, dehumanizing individuals who are victims.
What saddens me most when I read the news is not that I am enlightened to tragic events in the world, but that the media has decoupled “news” from the individuals it affects.
I watched the movie Network over the weekend. The infamous line ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more’ originated from this movie. But more so, it explores how in the media, specifically news, the pursuit of ratings leads to exploitation, insanity, the loss of self.
And what makes this movie so incredible, is that it was made in 1976 and it could not be truer to this day.
This is what saddens me, most of all.
And this is why I found Anderson Cooper’s response to the tragedy in Orlando to be so powerful. Because in response to such a horrific event, he was able to honor the victims, and humanize the event.
As a plea to those who are involved media, bring back true journalism.
Thank you Anderson Cooper, for the news.
To the families and friends of the victims in Orlando and beyond, I am so sorry for your loss.