What Is The Role of Media?

What a politically charged month! So much is happening on the world stage right now that it is easy to get sucked up in the frenzy of it. From criminal investigations to judicial rulings, global unrest, and presidential candidates jockeying for position, the summer is starting off with a bang. Add to that, the local shake-up at the GUSD board and Glendale City Council meetings, plus the abrupt lockout of the Friends of Rockhaven from the property, and many of us are seeking refuge away from all the noise. When I do come up for air, I lament the huge variation in how these stories are being reported, pining for the day when news media just gave us the facts without spin and let us make up our own minds about it.

My husband Jeff and I often play a game we call, “Whose headline is it?” where he reads titles to articles in his newsfeed and I try to guess which media source published it. It’s not that hard. Each news organization has an identifiable business model and a way it reports the news, with many teetering the line between fact, opinion and sensationalism. Often the best way to get to the truth is to follow all the coverage, which is exhausting.

Gone are the days when you couldn’t tell the political leanings of the person sitting in the anchor chair or the reporter writing the story. Legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite certainly never described an elected president as giving him a thrill up his leg. Back then, I had no idea who he voted for and couldn’t care less. Modern-day reporters feel compelled to enlighten their viewers with their own bias, disregard stories they don’t like, and accuse critics of being uneducated or worse – dangerous.

I haven’t been a writer for very long, maybe a decade or so. When I began with this paper as an opinion writer, I decided that I would write articles using well-researched facts from the perspective of a longtime resident of the foothills. I would share personal stories, a passion for my community and encourage participation for positive change. Although I do enjoy a good political discussion, I thought better of writing about politics. In today’s climate, if you are honest in your beliefs you automatically cut your audience in half creating divide, not unity. I want to focus more on bringing our communities together and to that end my political opinion does not matter.

From my perspective, the role of a reporter is to investigate and state what happened. Period. The goal of an opinion writer is to give people something to think about. Not only has this distinction become blurred over time but news topics are now being downright manipulated. Case in point is a segment I watched this week on a British television channel. It was about a group of activists who had been following a particular social media site and they were complaining that there were too many videos representing “disinformation.” They put pressure on the company to remove the questionable videos and ban the original posters, which it did. The saddest part of this story for me was that the British reporter just accepted this blatant form of censorship because the activists described the content as “outside accepted norms.” What? Shutting down opposing points of view represents the worst part of modern society and goes against true scientific inquiry and the freedom of speech that we all hold dear. We need more voices to raise more questions, not less, and an honest press to report all sides of a story.

This week, let’s celebrate our freedoms, acknowledging those who came before us and their contributions to our proud nation. Let’s enjoy our time together while we can because time is fleeting and the future of our country is no longer certain.

Susan Bolan

Susan Bolan