I know most of you don’t care about the Penn State scandal but it has given us not only a chilling A-list story on child molestation alongside the Catholic Church but it has also given us a glimpse of how sports writers work these days. Being right has always been at the forefront of journalism with being first a hair’s breadth behind. These days though being the loudest voice in the room is by far the most important thing.
Let me just give you two prime examples. Stephen A. Smith is a well known writer and broadcaster in the United States who specialises in basketball. When asked on ESPN’s First Take programme whether Penn State should receive the death penalty he reiterated that it should – and not just the death penalty – it should get it for a minimum of five years. Got no problem with that as we all have opinions but then he went on to say the following, ‘I have only glossed over the Freeh Report but I’ve read what I needed to know.’ So he has just a strong opinion based on glossing over a report. That is enough for him to have an opinion. I know one man who I wouldn’t want on my jury…
The other example comes from Sally Jenkins who is one of the very best in the business, long time columnist for the Washington Post so she really isn’t any mug. She wrote a column last Thursday after the release of the Freeh Report where upon she felt comfortable enough to say that Joe Paterno was guilty of perjury and of being a liar. Ok again that is her opinion but she says this due to what is in the Freeh Report.
The Freeh Report was 267 pages long and took me the best part of four hours to read. The report was released at 9AM local and yet her scathing column was posted at 9:31AM local. She hadn’t read the Freeh Report when she wrote her column. She had written the column, then when the Freeh Report came out flicked to a section in the Freeh Report to check that her narrative hadn’t been blown and went for it.
When I was plodding my way through Journalism at university I got to the stage where I to be blunt felt so disillusioned with the whole profession that I pretty much decided not to pursue a career in the industry. From what I could see there were a lot of very lazy journalists about who liked the sound of their own voice far more than they did informing the public of what was going on. That is even more evident to me now not just through the Penn State story but about politicians, bankers, foreigners etc… – a newspaper has a narrative that they want to get across to the public and they’ll fit the facts around the narrative. Not only that but they’ll change the narrative depending on what the public want. The most important thing isn’t to be right or fair or balanced but to check most boxes in a focus group.
I find this scenario extremely depressing but it is what it is. I know I’m just another pointless voice in the world that in the interweb but I at least choose to be a pointless point that has no narrative. I write what I think even if it is against how I thought I thought. I don’t care if 99% of the people who read a specific blog disagree with what I wrote. I write this blog as a place where my own personal thoughts on issues can come out.
It is like journalism just without being told what to write. It is a type of liberation. Maybe I had a lucky escape from journalism as I’d no doubt be too much of a loose cannon. I have opinions and I won’t swallow them. I think people knew that and so instead of working in the fast-paced action world of news or sports here I am doing internet type stuff to pay the bills and write my blurb on the side.
Maybe things didn’t work out too badly on that front after all…
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