McAdams On: Local Journalism

WHEREFORE, ART THOU—I posted a meme on Facebook a while back—a cross-stitch saying, “Journalism. It’s a tough job with insane pressure and pretty crappy pay. On the other hand, everybody hates you.”

I think folks in the field ranging from unpaid interns to multimillion-dollar salary types have felt that shade, lately. When your profession is more reviled than “Wall Street investment banker,” you need crisis PR, which, of course, you cannot afford. So you expound on the difference between news and opinion, even if it’s like taking a squirt gun to a wildfire.

You do everything you can not to make mistakes, but you do because there is no longer a copy desk and a phalanx of editors making your life a living hell by insisting that you check something for the thousandth time! If you’re a TV journalist, you’re also your own camera operator and editor.

So you own your mistakes, but in doing so, risk your credibility because why should anyone believe someone who makes mistakes? Six-hundred so-called “news” outlets just ran with your mistake if you happen to be reporting on something of interest to the average American, or you’ve managed to fit “Spam,” “tourniquet” “Tom Brady” and the pope into a teaser.

What is lost in the din is that journalists live in and serve communities. In December 2016, alone, local broadcast journalists helped raise $23.6 million for children’s medical care, food banks, the disabled, wildfire victims, families in need, the homeless, Make-A-Wish grants, World War II veterans and injured service members’ families.

They delivered thousands of articles of clothing and toys, plus tons of food to those in need. They ran educational campaigns on bullying and hosted public discussions among police and African-American community members. They exposed heroin abuse, helped traumatized military veterans obtain treatment and promoted a reading challenge at the local library.

“And that’s,” a prominent journalist once said, “the way it is.”