Yeah, we journalists sure are a sensitive bunch. We don’t much like it when our faults are pointed out and we really don’t like to take blame for the state we are in today. I guess we are human then.
I think – this is just me – that we journalists have to blame ourselves for this fine mess.
If editors and publishers weren’t so very scared of "stepping on toes and ruffling feathers", perhaps they would not be scared of asking tough questions and seeking honest answers.
Let me give you an example here.
When I was a reporter in India, one of the most decorated Shenai maestros to have ever walked the earth (yes, I am biased NOW), then 86-year-old Ustad Bismillah Khan, was mistreated by city and state employees. In spite of speaking to everyone involved, city and state officials were not happy that the newspaper decided to run the story. Nevertheless, it was published on the front page the following day.
I often wonder how that story would have been treated here, considering the editor and/or publisher would have to worry about saving face at the next Country Club luncheon with that city/state official.
It’s not as if that editor of The Times of India, Hyderabad, did not wine and dine with officials. He most certainly did. But he drew the line in the sand. They knew that when it came to work he sought no favors and gave none. He made sure his reporters asked questions and showed them how to seek answers.
The story of Ustad Bismillah Khan ends with the then most powerful chief minister of India, N. Chandrababu Naidu arriving at the Ustad’s hotel at 7 a.m. the day the story was published to apologize to him, and right the wrongs.
While long form journalism is beautiful, human interest stories are riveting and it is important to know what’s happening at city council, it is equally important to dig deep.
When we dig deep the earth is disturbed, we are likely to unsettle perhaps even offend something. That is when we should not let it bother us. That is when we should simply dust off and carry-on.
I was once told by one of my editors that however much you try to include and get all sides of a story, there is someone you are bound to offend. Journalism is not always about keeping everyone happy, it’s about doing the right thing and doing the right thing does not always make everyone happy. (I am happily married to that editor).
Al-Jazeera is getting ready to launch in America. As part of its process, it asked people what they thought were un/underreported stories. People seem to want more investigative, clear and unbiased reports.
When I want to get the news behind a story, I find myself turning to Al Jazeera and the BBC (strictly in alphabetical order). I realize that they don’t mind creating ripples. Not to mention, they do it in a calm, admirable and polite style.
I guess it's all about learning not to mix business with pleasure.
Well, perhaps all is not lost. Perhaps as a new generation of journalists takes charge of the reins here, we won’t be asked to render free services, we will be valued again … It might take time … but one can always hope.