If there were any doubt left after 2016 as to what too much of the mainstream news media in America has become, it most certainly has been erased in 2020. Too often, many in my industry have revealed themselves as little more than propaganda tools for dueling political sides, no longer reporting the way journalists once did. We compete for the latest anonymous “scoop,” scandalous rumor, or unsupported accusation. We pounce on the supposed “bombshell” du jour and hype it on the news, accompanied by endless round robins with political operatives. Many of us don’t even bother to find and report on stories that powerful people and interests aren’t pushing.
To do this, too many of us have abandoned basic tenets of journalism. We ignore the suspicious timing of the handout “leaks” or scandals — as if nobody notices. We fail to explore or disclose sources’ motivations or conflicts of interest — as if nobody wonders about them. We don’t even pretend to assess the true news value of the “bombshell.” We’re simply happy to be of service to the propagandists; we invite them to use us, and our superiors reward us with admiration. Many of our peers either repeat the reporting, seek to confirm it using equally dubious methods, or discredit it. Rarely do we step back and consider that the whole drama is being orchestrated by political puppet-masters who count their successes by the number of news stories they generate.