This summer was no less than action-packed: there was drama and there was fame. It was sensationalism at its worst.
Day after day, television news stations continued reporting developments in the search for Natalie Holloway in Aruba. The ratings were great, but the coverage left no room for news variation.
Mark Felt revealed himself as “Deep Throat,” an instrumental source in exposing the Watergate scandal. The Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein were in the limelight again. And there was notoriety.
Bill O’Reilly deviated from the journalistic rule of thumb when he showcased one-sided commentary as unbiased coverage.
Fox News claimed to be “fair and balanced,” yet its coverage, analysis and commentary seemed to suggest otherwise. And the bias led to a skeptical public.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller provided a heavy dose of controversy when she refused to reveal a source’s identity. The government criticized her for upholding journalistic ethics above the law. Now a federal shield law is under debate.
This summer was a journalism circus, and because the media became the news instead of reporting it, the field took a harsh blow to its credibility.
Because of this loss in the public’s faith and trust in the media, journalists needed a serious wake-up call.
Unfortunately, this quality tends to shine through in catastrophic events.
As we have seen in the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, journalism has risen to what it strives to be: credible, balanced and fair. But just as the nation and world have come together during this tragedy, journalists have banded to rise to the occasion.
Although the hurricane was the most devastating natural disaster this country has ever sustained, it has resurrected the essence of journalism.
New Orleans’s the Times-Picayune set up a makeshift newsroom in Louisiana State University’s Journalism Building in Baton Rouge after being evacuated from its New Orleans offices. WWL-TV Channel 4 and WGNO-ABC26 were also among the evacuees. They relocated to Tiger TV studios on LSU’s campus, where they have been broadcasting live. The days following the hurricane were filled with desperation and chaos, and the media, by printing and broadcasting information, provided a minimal amount of order. This determination and passion to provide a public service has kept the nation and the world in tune with the pain and emotion of those affected by the disaster.
This is an excellent example of what journalists strive to be. But disasters shouldn’t be the catalyst for journalistic integrity; journalists should consistently uphold that standard.