Letter to the Editor: ‘Media is broken’


To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to the Op-Ed piece by Sam Wolfe this week that accused journalists of giving into “mediocrity and nihilistic hackery.”

Let’s not conflate “the media” and “journalism.” Journalists produce a type of media: print news, online outlet, broadcast news, etc. … But not all media is journalism.

Contrary to our president’s assertion that reporters are “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” reporters actually care deeply about using only verified facts and serving the citizens of this country by telling them the truth. Reporters put their lives and reputations on the line.

While the media doles out biased information to appeal to a politically fractured citizenship, that doesn’t mean journalism as a profession is broken.

I would like to share an insight from the past to put this conversation into context. I’m assisting a professor with his research on a WWI Naval commander who was in charge of censorship for the American military.

In WWI, the Navy operated the telegraph wires, so they controlled the news media censorship. How it worked was like this: When a reporter in Paris wanted to file a story with the paper back home, the Navy censors would review it first and mark out censored information.

On the flip side, the Navy hired journalists to help tell the stories the government wanted the foreign and American press to believe.

This parallels the Trump administration’s actions this week in ordering a media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency. The executive branch is censoring the story with a media blackout and then backfilling the information vacuum with alternative facts. Media sites like Gateway Pundit tell stories that are separate from facts and friendly to the people in power. In WWI, they called this propaganda.

In the absence of journalism, the powerful can distort facts to product propaganda. I agree with Mr. Wolfe is this frustrating, but this isn’t journalism.

Journalism is not the problem in the media. Journalism is a part of the solution. In the absence of good journalism, the information vacuum is filled with fake news, “alternative facts” and Twitter.

Journalists are the last checkpoint on the road to the end of the American republic.

I invite the Stanford community to join the communications department faculty this Wednesday at 4 p.m. in 300-300 for a conversation about press freedom, the emergence of fake news, journalism ethics, media economics and the overall challenges of reporting on the new administration.

– Jane Nevins BA ’04 MA ’17
Reporter for The Peninsula Press

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