In my relatively short career as a journalist, there came a day when I was unprofessional.
That’s because that after interviewing a political candidate, I told the candidate that I supported his candidacy.
That was very unprofessional.
However, there were no other reporters around, no members of the public were there, no one was present except the candidate’s entourage. It was just a one-on-one interview between me, a radio reporter, and the candidate whom I had tracked down at a Missouri airport.
Yes, I told him I supported him. But with essentially no one there, I felt no guilt.
And I’m glad I did it.
That was back in the day when reporters at least feigned some kind of objectivity. It was nothing like the era of Clinton or the era of Obama, where journalists have become the de facto public relations arms of the candidates they cover.
The President sexually harasses an intern, lies about it under oath, then gets himself impeached and what happens? A pack of journalists jump up to protect him, to go after those prudes making the accusations.
And Obama? Don’t get me started. Journalists slobbering over themselves, having their legs tingling, running out of adjectives to describe the messiah. Anybody who dares ask the hard questions like journalists are supposed to do is labeled a racist, an enemy of the state, perhaps a domestic terrorist.
Or gets his or her reputation slashed like Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin.
What happened to the real reporters?
What happened to the guys who always believed that everyone – everyone – was attempting to manipulate, lie to, take advantage of, and use them?
“Your mother says she loves you? Better check that out,” they would say.
And they were only half-joking.
What happened to the guys with the healthy suspicion about news sources? New sources in the real reporter’s mind, always want one thing: their point of view in your newspaper or on your airtime. Period.
Of course they can have their point of view in our paper or on our airtime. They just need to talk to the advertising department about it and they can pay to distribute most any message they want. You pay, you say. Otherwise, it’s my job as the reporter to frame the story in as fair and objective and truthful way as I can. And that may not be exactly the way the news source wants it.
Too bad. I’m not here for you, Mr. or Ms. News Source. My allegiance is to my readers/listeners/viewers.
That’s why some reporters went to great lengths to portray objectivity. Some of them would go to the extreme of even not voting. Because they knew they trafficked in one thing: not newspapers sold, not broadcast ratings. They knew their stock-in-trade was credibility.
Without it, how can we report the news?
That’s a big reason why the mainstream media is dying today. It’s not entirely the new technology or the defunct business plans, although that’s part of it.
It’s because the news media have sold their souls to their own agendas. And those of the people they cover.
And, given what their role is in the Republic, they’ve become very unprofessional.
As I was that day back in 1976 when after an interview I told a tall, genial Californian that I supported him.
I was unprofessional. I admit it. But had anyone else been around to witness it, I would never have said what I did.
But I did. And I’m glad.
Because the candidate eventually succeeded in his quest and became one of the world’s great leaders.
The candidate was Ronald Reagan.
And to this day he still has my support.