Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Is journalism dead?

Writer Abroad has learned quite a bit about writing and democracy over the last few years. So much so, that she’s now shopping around a novel that deals with this very topic.

Unfortunately, much of what she’s learned, especially in the last few weeks, is very disturbing.

Most recently, there was this piece in The Nation: These Journalists Dedicated Their Lives to Telling Other People’s Stories. What Happens When No One Wants to Print Their Words Anymore? It talked about the end of journalism (and therefore democracy) as we know it.

Writer Abroad has experienced some of the things discussed in The Nation article and that’s why she really believes the end of journalism to be one of the most dangerous issues facing America today.

Here’s why. Once media companies (including some well-known newspapers you might recognize) force freelance writers like those mentioned in The Nation article to sign contracts that force them to be entirely liable for anything they write for that publication, you have basically ended journalism’s role in upholding democracy. Because how can any writer afford to write about controversial subjects and be held liable for their investigations—especially if they involve large corporations with huge pockets? They can’t. So the stories don’t get written.

This system is not fair to journalists and it’s not fair to Americans who rely on journalists to be watchdogs. What we have now is a media system that is owned by corporations and run by corporations and that only tells the stories the corporations want told.

What’s the solution? Well, instead of reading what the press has to say, we should try to read between the lines at what it is not saying. For example, even when Bernie Sanders wins a state in the democratic primaries, like Michigan, headlines about him are negative—he still doesn’t have a chance. To reinterpret these headlines without the corporate spin, they would probably read: Bernie Sanders takes his revolution to new heights scaring an establishment that depends on regular Americans to make up for their billion-dollar tax breaks.

What else tells Writer Abroad that something is wrong with journalism? Well, over the last year, Writer Abroad has published essays and articles on many topics and with many big publications. The topics that she’s been successful with are expat and repatriate life, work-life balance, and parenting, etc. But she can’t seem to get a positive essay about Bernie Sanders published anywhere. No. With those pieces come rejections and/or silence from the big media companies. It’s frustrating. And revealing.

What is the solution? Well, it may be up to writers and journalists to develop their own ways to get the stories out there. They can develop their own publishing companies, their own blogs or social networks, etc. For instance, Writer Abroad may post her pieces that are unacceptable to big media companies on her blog. Because while Writer Abroad would rather have a million readers than 10,000, she still thinks it’s more important that some of these topics get out there rather than having them sit, waiting for eternity, for the slim possibility that they will ever see the light of day on a corporate-owned publication masquerading as today’s American newspaper.


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