Casey Villalon | The Poly Post

Don’t shoot the messenger: The misunderstood role of the reporter

By Antonia Lopez-Vega, Feb. 13, 2024

“Journalism is a dying industry.” A statement that has followed my peers and I from the moment we decided on our college major. 

I recall the confused looks adults would give me in high school when I said I wanted to be a reporter, or how the university tours I attended always highlighted business or STEM programs while throwing in a sentence or two about the communication department. Even friends would lightheartedly joke how reporting is a job that AI will take over at some point. 

It was a phrase that stuck with me as I started studying. Now I am in my last semester and I’m currently working in the industry, I have come to a conclusion. 

The idea that journalism is a dying field is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. 

From wars and bombings happening across the Pacific Ocean to cases of embezzlement at CPP, journalism keeps the public informed and holds those in power accountable. 

At least that’s the idea. 

In the world of today, it’s not journalism itself that’s dying, but rather how peopletoday don’t understand a journalist’s role in society. 

The best description I could find of the role is from Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel in The Elements of Journalism. 

“The journalist is committed to society,” Kovach and Rosentiel wrote. “The model is not disinterested. It is not cynical. It is not disengaged. The journalist’s role is predicated on a special kind of engagement – being dedicated to informing the public but not play a direct role as an advocate for one side or the other for particular policy outcomes.”  

Nowadays, with algorithms feeding content that users want to see for longer watch times and the surge in online echo chambers, the line between subjectivity and objectivity has been blurred to the public. 

Casey Villalon | The Poly Post

Granted, people being mad at journalists is a tale as old as the practice of reporting, but the combination of social media and the effect of Trump’s presidency has led to the strengthening of the idea, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” 

Many journalists aren’t seen as objective storytellers, rather they are viewed as a way to spread their messaging. If the supposed message contradicts the beliefs of the reader, then the story is “wrong.” 

An example of this is Trump’s impeachment trials. When the transcript of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came out, Trump supporters were quick to discredit the findings reported by any news source other than Fox News. 

The rallies that were hosted were full of claims of fake news and other negative sentiments toward journalists. Things even reached a point where journalists were harmed for doing their due diligence, 

This idea doesn’t solely go to individuals but has risen to organizations as well. 

I’ve had a few local non-profits reach out and ask me to cover their demonstrations at city council meetings, often being them going up to the mic for public comment. I’ve denied these stories on numerous occasions because either I’m covering a more newsworthy event or it’s outside the beats I’m used to. 

There are also cases where I have had to say no due to my own bias of a situation, and knowing I wouldn’t be able to remain neutral in my writing. 

These denials led to me, and others, being accused of taking side in certain issues. Once again, the mentality of, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” takes center stage, there’s no room for context, nuance or explanation. 

This growing resentment and the idea of journalism dying is pushing people away from even considering studying the field, which leaves an empty spot for those in power to impose their version of a story. This has the potential to harm how the stories of today are told in the history books of tomorrow.  

If it weren’t for journalism, Watergate would never have been discovered, no one would know about the cases of child molestation hidden by the Catholic Church, and we wouldn’t know the conditions Palestianian people are living in throughout the war. 

The fact is that journalists aren’t here to cater to a person’s bias. We don’t always give you the story you want to hear, because the world we report from doesn’t always have stories that cater to you.  

There will always be decisions made that the public doesn’t agree with, and there will be famous figures who do heinous things behind closed doors. The role of a journalist isn’t to hide this information, but to expose it so people know the truth of the world we live in. 

Journalism is an everlasting practice that will be passed on as history for the next generation. 

Feature image courtesy of Casey Villalon

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