Arguably one of the most important news events I’ve taken part in covering was the case of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen. Al-Hussayen was a University of Idaho graduate student, living with his wife and children in Moscow in 2003*.
In the early morning hours of a regular day, SWAT teams and federal agents “breached” Al-Hussayen’s home, and took him into custody for alleged illicit activity of supporting anti-American overseas operations.
But within this fascinating post-September-eleventh dynamic, of which your humble correspondent was a part, bloomed a side of journalism I never knew existed.
As Al-Hussayen’s case began to evolve, and reports of racial profiling and protest began to surface, so came the satellite trucks like locusts. Precious university parking space was occupied not by beat-up Civics or Accords, but by cables and live feeds.
You’d think this onslaught of journalistic prowess would’ve fleshed-out the Al-Hussayen saga beyond the hype, but you would be mistaken.
TV reporters turned to the humble stronghold which is/was the Argonaut, UI’s student newspaper. These professional journalists began to interview student journalists creating news by interviewing news-people.
During a time when better journalism should’ve been practiced, the industry seemed instead to regress into an easy sound byte.
Breaking, internationally-recognized stories may create wormholes of activity, though. Perhaps this trend is less prevalent in times less frenzied.
Unfortunately, I’m noticing our industry having to take an easy way more often than a more valuable way. Everyday we must fill all the minutes of a clock and some people don’t care what material fills that time.
We air stories that are factually incorrect or inadequate, interviews that are substandard, or features that are irrelevant and/or unimportant to the majority of our listeners.
Sometimes these lapses come from simply being human, other times they come from laziness.
These things don’t happen just in small, local stations either, but with national and international networks as well.
CNN, Glenn Beck, Journalism?
Glenn Beck has been called Rush Limbaugh’s successor.
He has a talk show broadcast on Headline News, owned by CNN. Flipping through the channels one night in November brought me to Beck’s show.
But CNN’s Anderson Cooper was hosting Beck’s show.
Beck was the guest…talking about Beck’s new book.
I have to admit I did a double-take.
Pushing merchandise under the guise of news (Cooper was supposed to add legitimacy to the interview, I guess) only further distances the public from true journalism.
I try to maintain clarity in my reporting.
I try to imagine my listeners absorbing the news of the day.
I try to remember to serve the public in my reporting.
This may sound too idealistic. But journalists need to remember why we are in this business, and who we serve with our responsibility.
Many do remember that, and work hard to fulfill it, but there are strong forces pushing the other way.
What can we do about this trend, and how can we begin to turn the tide before all is swept away?
*date error amended