Sunday, July 2, 2017

If you don't want a free press, just buy it

Click on the picture to watch the trailer
I just finished watching an excellent documentary on Netflix. "Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press."  

My colleague Matt Marvar sent me an email a few weeks ago telling me this was a must watch.  He was correct.  If you can get past the salacious story of Hulk Hogan's romantic exploits you will quickly see that this documentary is not about Hulk Hogan but a more important topic.  Our freedom as a journalist - the only profession that was actually protected in the Constitution.  

Watching the Sunday morning political talking heads I heard a media ethicist talking about how we've entered a new media ecosystem. A system where instead of balancing ideas, talking point/counterpoint - instead it's about simply argument, creating false realities, and if we talk about it enough then it must be true.  She said this new media landscape is beyond repair. I think she's probably right - it can't be fixed. She could be right but that doesn't mean that the press still doesn't have a vital role in digging, researching and reporting.  If you watch this documentary you'll see that if you don't want a free press - just buy it - yes I said buy it - that's exactly what some of our billionaires are doing in the U.S, they're buying media organizations and newspapers to suppress information or shape the stories that are being reported in their publications.  

If you take the time to watch this documentary you are going to be inspired by the story of the courageous reporters from the Las Vegas Review-Journal who stood up to a billionaire who bought their newspaper and tried to suppress their reporting.  Instead they fought back, knowing it would cost them their jobs.  This is probably the best part of the documentary as you listen to these amazing journalists talk about the importance of press in a free society.  So important in fact that they put their own jobs at risk. When the staff learned that their paper had been bought out they quickly went to work trying to unmask their new owner. They practiced good old fashion journalism on their own newspaper.  Oh my, if David Carr was still alive he would have a field day with this story.  

While I've never checked out the Gawker website (until just now - which of course is shut down, if you watch the documentary, you'll see why.) The type of news coverage they provide probably isn't for me but I do defend their right to report and write (even if some of their content is outrageous.) Ashton Nichols sent me an article a few weeks ago about how the current political climate is giving rise to a new era of journalists, an uptick in newspaper subscriptions, and a growing trend that is seeing more and more young people choose journalism as a career.  You should check out the story here. It is definitely worth the read and validates what we're doing. 

“It’s Donald Trump taking a leading voice in trying to turn the country against journalism,” Joe Grimm, editor in residence at Michigan State University's School of Journalism, tells Teen Vogue. “He essentially needs an enemy and he’s chosen the news media to be one of his enemies.”
In response, many Americans are using their wallets to show support for journalism. Subscriptions to The New York Times doubled in 2016, and many other news organizations reported bumps in subscriptions and donations after the election. And there seems to be a rising enthusiasm for journalism as a career: Instead of being put off by “fake news” jeers and “dishonest media” jabs, preliminary numbers show that journalism education programs are seeing a rise in interest compared to the recent past.

I hope you'll take a break from your Netflix binge watching of 13 Reasons Why, The Office, Orange is the New Black, or whatever else you're into and give this 90 minute documentary a view.  I think if you watch it you're going to be impacted, especially by the stories of the staff members at Las Vegas Review-Journal and their columnist John L. Smith. 

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