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GLOVER COLUMN: Media has no ulterior motives

Since I began working in journalism during college I have noticed there is a portion of the public that doesn’t trust the media at large.

There is a feeling both by the public and by journalists in the field that the media is losing its long held integrity and news values. And I have noticed a sentiment among some people with whom I interact that journalists are out to get them or to bend the truth in an attempt to sensationalize news.

Journalists have long thought of themselves as the Fourth Estate of the government in the United States. Idealistically we are here to provide the general public with the information needed to keep elected officials in check. Or, at least, this is the tenet that is drilled into those studying journalism by our professors.

But recent mistakes and lapses in journalistic values have given the field a black eye. Soft news coverage and news shrouded in opinion has begun to seep its way into the national news coverage making the public leery of what they are presented by the media.

A Pew Research Center report in 1998 found that 88 percent of journalists felt that press criticism of politicians kept them from doing things they shouldn’t do. Only 58 percent of the general public agreed, a far cry from the hand-in-hand relationship between the media and public following the Nixon administration.

The Fourth Estate role doesn’t carry much clout if the public trusts politicians over the media.

Of course the media itself has always been one of its own worst critics. In a 2004 Pew report, 56 percent of journalists surveyed said they thought the press was too timid in its reporting and 52 percent said that increasingly sloppy reporting was hurting the industry.

Of course, this response could be attributed to a heightened sensitivity about the role of journalism by those in the field. It could be attributed to over analyzation and the press’ tendency to dwell on things that it feels needs to be brought to light.

As for the sentiment that journalists are out to sensationalize the truth, maybe this can be said about some journalists. But it seems to me that in every walk of life and field of work there are clichs held by the general public that don’t hold true. Is it fair then to blindly assume when a journalist contacts a person that there is a hidden agenda to undermine a person and their reputation?

I say no. I also feel that such broad generalizations are brought to bear out of ignorance, and when they are levied at me I find it rude and offensive.

I am not a conniving reporter out to sensationalize a story to further my career. I do not deliberately misquote people in my articles to fit my own ends, despite comments made in my presence by people suggesting that other individuals should remain mum lest I misquote them in the newspaper.

I was raised to detest lying, so a person I don’t know and who doesn’t know me suggesting I deliberately misquote &045; an extreme form of lying &045; is perhaps one of the most infuriating insults that can be leveled at me.

When I began studying journalism at the University of Alabama, I came across a quote that I like to read from time to time to keep from moving away from the path of truth in my work.

I still see my role as a journalist as being the Fourth Estate, whether the public agrees or not. In my reporting I try to be honest and unbiased, as I was taught. I also believe that this is the sentiment of the largest part of the journalism profession.

Journalists see their jobs as a public service. Most, and I won’t be so pompous as to say all, are trying to inform the public about things that it needs to know, rather than sensationalize in an attempt to further their own careers.

It is my hope that the public will again see journalists as a group that contributes to the community rather than a pariah out to serve their own ends.

Brandon Glover is a staff writer for The Times. He can be reached at (443) 289-4017 or by e-mail to brandon.glover@demopolistimes.com.