Let's get real: Do you care about whose bump is going where, when and why in the world? We're living in a time where headlines about a 16-year-old girl being assaulted and killed by a classmate is shrunken by the sex life of Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, and measuring the size of Kim Kardashian's waistline is the hot ticket of the hour on Instagram. How did we get here, and is there any hope for a deposit back into the coin return of real life?
Journalists entertain a daring mix of obstacles on a moment-to-moment basis every single day, 365 days per year. Our commitment to disentangling the breaking news is an effort steeped in responsibility -- to our work, our readers, our communities and fellow reporters. It's a thankless job most of the time, I'll say it. Media professionals don't walk into the newsroom expecting a pat on the back and the money is fairly nonexistent most of the time -- until you reach a certain point in your career. Even then the medium is, frankly, fickle.
One thing keeps us charged, though. There's something innately comfortable about being in the middle of a tidal wave -- any journalist worth their salt will undoubtedly agree. We're collectively inspired by our struggles, and are horrible at not getting our way. It makes for a difficult relationship, this writing business, but the partners that can handle it tend to stick around in spite of the chaos.
We are truth-seekers, daredevils, rule-breakers, heroes (and sometimes villains)... in that order. You are either with us or against us, and sometimes that line in the sand fluctuates depending on whether you're the subject or the source in our disclosures.
"Girl Fatally Stabbed Possibly for Rejecting Boy for Prom," competes with "Student Killed at School." Which one would you click on?
Perspective is everything in this business.
An investigative journalist can make or break your career, so when the proverbial "they" say never make a writer angry, it holds some weight. Whether you've saved a life or robbed a bank, unless the news covers it, it didn't happen. Now, granted, some subjects make their way into the spotlight and never know when it's time to leave. It makes for a separate (and annoying) fish to fry. On the one hand, you've placed someone squarely in the center of a popular story that made national headlines for weeks, months, sometimes years... On the other hand, the story's over and now you're left with a personality that doesn't know when to step aside. For this purpose, let's refer to the person as "Frankenbeast."
Frankenbeast exists everywhere. He's your neighbor, your colleague, your friend, or foe. He's insufferable -- made inhuman by natural disaster, tragedy or death. He was a one-hit-wonder that hit the "repeat" button on his cassette player one too many times and never switched to iTunes. Frankenbeast might as well have created the Internet because his ego is about the size of Europe trying to slam into the shell of a walnut. Showering Frankenbeast with media attention is akin to feeding Seymour a freshly-cut bone -- it never ends well.
Most stories, however, run the course of their shelf lives and are archived for later reference. Herein we have perhaps one of the most important rules in journalism: nothing can be retracted. Surely retracting one's statement is possible, but is it ever really stricken from the record? Nope. Public opinion and response time is everything in the age of retweeting, re-posting, sharing and embedding.
Hold on, a news alert just came in: Flight 370 is still missing...