The role of a modern journalist, for all intensive purposes, should be to tell the public the truth. Even when the truth is upsetting. Even when it is disturbing. Even when it goes against all morals held by all good men. A true journalist should be a public servant.
However, more and more frequently it seems as though the role of journalism is becoming more selfish than selfless; less of a public service and more of a personal motive. The Toledo Blade's three-month assault on Tom Noe. Newsweek's report on Guantanamo Bay and "Flushgate." It seems as though more and more frequently that the motives of the journalists whose names appear on those bylines are not to serve the public, but to beat the competition to the punch or to crucify a human being who by all means is not perfect, but does not deserve to be dragged through the mud day after day.
Journalists are asked to do what is seemingly impossible — they are expected to report events in an honest, unbiased nature. This goes against the grain of every human tendency. And alas, journalists are humans, too. But to accept journalists as human beings requires journalists to accept their topics as human beings, or situations that affect human beings.
Despite the fact that they are held to an impossible standard of human nature, journalists are by no means on a pedestal. They go home to their families and go to bed burdened with the same stains and sins as anyone else. Unfortunately, it is when certain journalists stand on oftentimes self-appointed pedestals that journalism suffers, and as a result, the public suffers, too.
When my friend was charged with involuntary manslaughter, journalists wrote the stories detailing the night she accidentally killed her newborn daughter. Admittedly, the situation was horrendous and tragic. But at the same time, there was a person, a human being, behind the red and puffy eyes in the mug shot featured on the front page, desperately regretting what happened, begging God to let her take it back, mourning the loss of her child. Journalists no longer focus on the humanity of it all — quite simply, it is whatever will make the most noticeable headline.
Journalism is a competitive and cut-throat field. And it's understandable that oftentimes the only way to curb off the competition is to erase the humanity from the story and provide cold, uncaring black and white. There is a difference, however, between the black and white and utter disregard for the true essence of the story.