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The media and me

| Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This has been a very anti-media semester for me. All of my classes at some point or another have critiqued the news media for its racism, sexism, liberal bias, conservative bias, dishonesty, irresponsibility and many other flaws and failures.

But here I am working for a newspaper. It’s a small, completely student-run newspaper, but a newspaper nonetheless. So, in some small way, I am a part of the media — the same racist, sexist, biased, dishonest, irresponsible media I’ve heard about in class.

And I want to be a journalist after graduation. I want to go from working for this newspaper to a larger, professional newspaper that, for all I know, is racist, sexist, biased … I think you know the drill by now. So I guess things don’t look too good for the media and me.

Being the good critical thinker Notre Dame has trained me to be, though, I know not to blindly accept everything I read (or hear in class). The news media is certainly flawed, but it is a human institution, bound to be imperfect by its very nature.

It’s easy to sit in a classroom or on a cable television set and demonize “the media” as this big nameless, faceless, foundationally corrupt abstraction. But it’s not that. The word “media” is plural, and the news media as an industry is plural, too — made up of real people reporting on real events.

The news media is flawed, but so many of the flaws stem from the structure of news organizations and its inherent constraints including deadlines, reliance on sources and the need to appeal to a wide audience.

And for anyone who actually thinks the media is part of some massive, orchestrated conspiracy — I have some bad news for you. We don’t have our act nearly enough together to orchestrate much of anything at all. Most of the time, we’re just trying to make it through the day, and if we only screw up five times, then it was a good day.

I’m not asking anyone to demand less of the news media or forgive its decidedly many flaws, but please understand who and what the media really is. We’ll screw up and we’ll run corrections. We’re humans undertaking a human endeavor. None of our mistakes are ever intentional. We’re just trying to make it through the day and put out a product we take pride in, and, more than anything else, a product that serves our audience well.

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Contact Jack