“News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot.”
— Katharine Graham, The Washington Post
I recently saw the new movie, The Post, about the Washington Post’s reporting of the classified papers that expose a massive cover-up of government secrets concerning the Vietnam War. I love movies about investigative reporting. Partly because as a P.R. professional, it’s sort of related to the work I do. The movie was good! Slightly falls behind the great All the President’s Men and Spotlight, but very good all the same.
Of course, being Hollywood, there were the underlying subtle references to Trump through the outspoken feelings of the journalists towards Nixon, the President at the time. I overlooked all that, because I was so fascinated with the story of the Post. At the time, it was considered a mere regional paper. The New York Times was the powerhouse news organization. It was exciting to watch a depiction about how investigative journalism and the process of vetting and publishing a story worked.
Up until the last decade, it’s how news was reported.
When I do a press release, I try very hard to make sure that it’s up to the standard of being a news story; I vet the source, I fact check, I have it edited, and quote exactly as said. And I’m just in P.R. I expect the news to be news. I’m concerned about the whole notion of “fake news.” And it doesn’t help that with social media, everyone is a “journalist.” I’m not sure that “fake news” is the correct term as much as opinionated news. It seems that every story has become an editorial.
At the end of 2017, the front page story in The New York Times was an opinion piece about President Trump’s first year in office. Slanted left. How did this iconic paper, the end-all-be-all symbol of true journalism go from breaking stories such as Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to putting at best an editorial and at worst a blog on the front page?
And in the city of Atlanta there is a greatly publicized new broadcast program called The Late Feed that features the lead anchor talking about how “We don’t just report the news like everybody else. We talk about how it happened and why it happened.” Complete with a panel of other opinionated people on the topic at hand. Sounds like one big televised video blog to me. And that seems to be the reaction by others, media and viewers alike. The Late Feed wants to “shake up the news.” That’s all fine and good, but don’t call it the news. Call it a talk show.
I keep hoping that news the way it used to be will come back. The hunt. The content. The integrity. The work, at every stage. I don’t want to believe that we’re too far gone the way of social media and everybody’s-a-journalist. I wish I had a suggestion how. Until then, I’ll stick to Bloomberg…and the movies.