The art of storytelling is something man can trace to the advent of our origins. Tales of mighty deeds have been passed down from word-of-mouth since the dawn of time and many of these stories were used as a way to inspire the masses for a single cause. But in the divisive and often hostile environment that today’s journalists face on an everyday basis, one must beg the question of what is wrong with modern day journalism?
The complex relationship between interviewer and subject has been closely scrutinized by members of all fields in modern American society. Why do athletes and political figures often erupt at simple inquiries? As an aspiring journalist, it often befuddles me on how repetitive certain field reporters can be. I sometimes will watch a press conference just for informative purposes, and what I see usually is a reporter from a certain field asking a public figure the same repetitive question over and over again.
We as humans are naturally inclined to shy away from a task we may find daunting or somewhat challenging. As such, we as journalists have shied away from looking for the stories that may require some digging. We as a collective professional body refuse to dig underneath the surface to find the diamond in the rough. Asking a subject the same question 30 different times will more often than not yield the same repetitive answer.
Keynote speaker Jim Striesel, a musically gifted high school journalism teacher, used the perfect analogy to describe journalism and news editorials today. News, in essence, is broccoli. Plain broccoli has a rancid taste to the vast majority of us. However, once we apply cheese or ranch sauce to said vegetable, the broccoli tastes so much different.
If 10 news-agencies interview Tom Brady, why would an 11th person need to cover that same person? Instead, why not interview the practice squad player who had some sort of uphill battle to get to where he is? It is up to the journalists of tomorrow to decide how our field is received. We are at a crossroads in our profession, and as the news landscape changes, so also must our approach to how we cover things. We must not be afraid to find that diamond-in-the-rough story, that story that no other news agency has even considered.
Journalists need to stop trying to advance their own personal agendas on the collective audiences. Developing your brand as a professional is important, but writing for views and not for truth and emotion is not ethical or respectable. Once we develop this mindset of exploration and intuition and integrity that has begun to elude journalists across the country, I firmly believe that once again we will produce more Walter Cronkites and Bill Plaschkes. To all you future journalists, do you want to be truly great? Or do you want to be average? The choice is yours.
Nathan Stearns is a columnist for the MIPA Upstart staff. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the publication.