By DJ DORAN
I have now been the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of The Word, the largest LGBTQ newspaper in the Midwest, for over a year. Since taking over the paper, I have become increasingly uneasy about the direction I see journalism taking recently.
The public depends on us as journalists to be their surrogate, holding governments, organizations and individuals accountable by reporting the facts about stories that we cover. I have worked hard to reinvent The Word into a publication that is clear-eyed, fearless and grounded in an honest evaluation of facts, which has helped move local and regional debates forward on a plethora of issues. But too often, the state of current journalism falls short.
Journalists and their editors often seem to take what politicians, business and community leaders and their mouthpieces say at face value, writing what they hear without ensuring that the facts are indeed the facts and not some talking point or spin of the facts. They look for winners and losers, (usually along party lines in a political sense) and usually at the expense of the nuance.
Reporters, in their desire to appear even-handed, intentionally or unintentionally create a false balance between two opposing sides of a story that really do not deserve equal weight. They elevate politics, polls and individual personalities over substance with measured and objective analysis.
More often than not, broadcast, print and online outlets slant the news and engage in what I call “pack” journalism, reminding me of lemmings – one moves and others follow, delighting in spotlighting the screw-up, the mistake, or gaffe, which might be entertaining to readers, but does little or nothing to educate or inspire our readers to do better, to be better.
I believe that journalism for the most part has come untethered from the core set of journalistic values that served as the foundation of trust between news outlets and their audience:
• Being in the service of Justice, asking questions, telling stories and inspiring those in positions of power and leadership to do the right thing.
• Ferreting out the truth of stories that those in positions of power and leadership may not want revealed.
• Holding tight to accuracy, intellectual honesty, rigorous reporting and fairness, values that ought to never go out of style.
Finally, it is the responsibility of journalists and the publications that they work for to continue to act as lie detectors through skeptical eyes and vigorous and deeply informed investigative reporting. We at The Word will continue to be unaffected by gossip or innuendo as we report the truth and the facts about the stories that matter to our community.