Mtume Salaam 8:43 a.m., May 24
I love having an opinion, and I love voicing it.
There’s a difference, though, when it comes to news. I can distinguish the difference between knowing an appropriate and inappropriate time to present a bias.
For straight news pieces, I know that I’m looking for a neutral party to present multiple viewpoints. I’m looking for an outlet to trust that they’re not going to make a decision on a topic first and find sources supporting their decisions after. And if they do, they better be open-minded enough to recognize that they could be wrong in their assumptions.
When I read an opinion piece, however, I look for the writer to be genuine and earnest in his or her interests. I look for him or her to be brave not to downplay his or her voice, or disguise his or her opinion or political party agenda behind propagandic pieces and call it “news.”
Most importantly, I look for transparency. I feel more comfortable knowing that a journalist has an opinion and is not afraid to share it on a blog that he or she specifically labels as an opinion site. Journalists have opinions, beliefs and party affiliations. That’s fine. But don’t hide them. It doesn’t help democracy. Let me know what they are. I want to hear, especially from people who are media specialists, supposedly the most informed citizens of the globe.
That’s fine if you write straight news pieces too. Just honor that news is news and opinion is opinion. Separate affairs. I admire journalists who can do both. It lets me know that he or she knows the difference between the two. It gives me a little bit more insight about who is writing the article.
One of the problems journalists face in the public eye today is the idea that traditional media has lost its independence to some extent. Many believe that we’re all working for some capital-minded media conglomerate owner. They’ve forgotten that we’re working for them – the citizens.
But how can they blame us? So many of us are worried about our reputations. Anything we Tweet, Facebook or publish online can be viewed by anyone in the world. With the dwindling economy, we have to be even more careful what we say because any slip up could cost us our jobs, and we all know there’s a thousand people lined up to fill our positions.
So they keep a tight lip. They play it safe. They cut out every single cliché from their writing and they shy away from anything taboo.
Now we’ve created a wall between the citizen and ourselves. Not only that, we’ve created a wall between each other. If you see another journalist in error, do us all a favor and point it out. Don’t be afraid that you’re “rocking the boat.” It’s your job to not only check people in power, it’s also your responsibility to check other news entities.
You can have all the credentials in the world, but I need to know that you’re human. I need to know that you have something on your mind. If you get it out in an opinion blog, there’s less chance of it slipping out in your straight news pieces, because it’s not built up in the back of your mind. It’s not looming in the underbelly of your subconscious waiting to accidentally seep out. As long as we clarify. As long as we distinguish that “Here is my opinion blog. When I write news, I don’t put my voice in the picture. I do not push my boss’s agenda. I work for the people and the people deserve to know that I have more sides to me than a no-sided, non-fiction story teller.”
Now we’ve built trust, in my opinion. Now we’ve built a connection, in my opinion. And in my opinion, we’ve established independence. There’s nothing more beautiful than a free mind.