Randy Hallman, a friend from high school days and son of the couple who guided me into a career as a newspaperman, has long reported for The Richmond Times-Dispatch and was also an acknowledged sportswriter who covered NASCAR in its formative days.
Like many of us who love our profession and has watched it supplanted by gossip-driven social media, partisan Internet sites and satellite “news” programs, Randy has also watched “the media” become a catch-all for those who need someone to blame for society’s ills.
He expressed his frustrations on Facebook:
So, I’m going to say this now to get ahead of things and stop surprising some of my dearest friends with angry outbursts.
I’m fed up, to put it extremely mildly (is that a thing, extremely mildly?), fed up with people posting bumper-sticker-style attacks on “the media.” For every gripe anybody has, there’s a media plot, a media conspiracy, a media blackout, a media offensive After seeing these accusations over and over, I’m getting angrier and angrier.
First of all, there is no monolithic “media.” There’s not even a monolithic “mainstream media.” Can you imagine heads of National Enquirer, The Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS News Hour getting together on an approach to coverage of anything?
There are untold numbers of us doing things in different ways – some of which I like and some of which I don’t like. I work at a newspaper. I work with a room full of people who give all they can give to report the truth. They take far more time from their families than they should. They grind out days and nights on the road. Sometimes, even at my mid-sized daily paper, they risk their lives. And I can assure you, my mates and I are not involved in plots, conspiracies, blackouts or offensives to hide or to overexpose anybody’s agenda.
We are far from perfect. We fall short. We run out of time. We make mistakes. We over-react to the drumbeat of social media speculation and half-reporting. But we are reaching for the best we can manage.
I don’t mind if you call for more coverage or less coverage of an issue or a person. I don’t mind if you disagree with editorials (who wouldn’t?) or other specifics. I don’t mind if you point out my mistakes. (Well, I mind a little, but it comes with the territory.)
And, if it comes to that, I defend your right to post a broad-brush attack on “the media” whenever you choose. But if you can’t back up an attack like that, you might want to unfriend me first. Because I’m through remaining silent. And it might not take too many of my posts for you to decide you should have unfriended me sooner.
He said what many of us who practice journalism as a profession feel and he said it better than anyone, especially me, could have said.
I’ve been a newspaperman most of my life. I sold my first news photo and story to The Farmville Herald in Prince Edward County at 10. I become a reporter and photographer for The Floyd Press at 14, a full-time newspaper reporter and photographer for The Roanoke Times at 17 before moving to other news functions, including 12 years at The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, in 1969 and, after a decade under the sad influence as a political operative, returned to journalism and am now semi-retired and working for, among others, The Floyd Press again.
As Randy eloquently said, we are not perfect. We make mistakes. I’ve had made big ones but I, and others, have admitted our mistakes, apologized and continued our pursuit of truth and tried to achieve a goal of presenting it to the public.
And, like my friend Randy, I will keep doing it as long as I can and if you don’t like it then that’s too damn bad.