The media may be cynical and sinister, but it’s not evil

When I teach my journalism and public relations classes at Michigan State University, I often tell my students that one of my goals is to help them become a bit more cynical.

Maybe that’s, well, cynical of me, but too often college students are idealistic to a point where they aren’t ready to face the reality they’ll encounter in newsrooms across the country.

That reality includes being blamed for the news they are covering, especially by those whom they are covering and are not ending up in the best light.

Take, for example, the newly crowned president of the Detroit City Council, Monica Conyers. She is now the president because the former president is now the mayor, because the former mayor became “former” as part of his plea agreement to avoid prison. But that’s a whole other story.

Recently she reportedly entered the City Council offices screaming at reporters, “You are all evil! Please leave me alone!” And it wasn’t even in response to a probing query from a hard-nosed reporter. Nope, this most recent outburst was a preemptive strike launched before the first question was even tossed at her.

People often wonder why the media only covers bad news and conflict and all the less-than-flattering utterances of people like city council presidents. Well, the bottom line is they are doing their job. A journalist’s job is to cover the news. What is news? Bad things happening. Conflict. Elected officials behaving in a way unbecoming of the trust they have been given by voters.

I’m one of the first lately to get frustrated by what we call the news (and am fond of sharing the JibJab piece by the same name).

Too many decisions in newsrooms these days are based upon the power of the dollar, or the power of the parent company’s dollar. We spend way too much time having to endure stories about the latest celebrities because the public has become unwitting sensationalistic voyeurs.

So, maybe too many reporters have become cynical like me. And maybe too many reporters have become a bit sinister in their attempt to show the public why they’ve gotten so cynical.

But evil? I think not.

If you’re going to be subjected to media coverage, which is quite likely when you run for public office, you better be ready to live your life to a different standard. You better be ready to conduct yourself professionally and appropriately at all times.

In short, don’t do anything bad, don’t cause conflict and, most importantly, don’t try to blame the media for your troubles. After all, if you didn’t have or cause trouble to begin with, the reporters would probably be following someone else.

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