This will not be a post about sports. In fact in times like this I’m at a loss on how to spend time thinking about sports. That’s not a knock on those who do. Quite the opposite. I wish I could dive in to the games and teams I love and not contemplate “breaking news”.
The shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland unfortunately isn’t anything new. It’s a weekly occurrence that floods our timelines and waits for our thoughts and prayers. This particular shooting however was slightly different. It was an attack on a newsroom. A place full of journalists, editors, assistants, and people just getting coffee.
According to some in this country, these people are enemies to our beloved democracy.
We can’t dismiss or even ignore Trump’s rhetoric, tone, or literal tweets when it comes to the media and how he feels about them. How he implores his supporters to feel about them. Making it more realistic for violence, more of a comforting thought rather than an impossible nasty thought you bury away. You can’t deny the existence of video after video showing Trump supporters screaming at reporters and journalists. Trump has jettisoned us into the era of Fake News.
The news may be fake, but the lives are real. And, now five have been taken from this world.
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to argue that Trump is responsible for these deaths; ultimately it’s up to your own free thought to process the information and hate speech delivered by the man you call President. Trump didn’t kill them. But, I’d feel naive and perhaps even a little stupid to think his crusade of anti-news didn’t influence a deranged disciple’s target.
As members of “New Media” we find ourselves in a strange time. We find ourselves often feeling elite to the old guard, smarter, quicker, open to trends and progression. We are more apt to believe tweets as facts simply because we don’t have to wait for the well-reported story. We move on the tweets, and apologize for the fallout days later when the cycle has passed us by and the short attention spans have already run out of memes.
We find comfort in knowing that we are on the forefront of the future, and take unwarranted jabs at those who have decided to stick where they feel comfortable, and where the money is still pretty good.
As consumers, we find momentary joy in “taking to task” the old media for things we’d never have the balls to report ourselves. We want to push them to the limit. Test them, watch them fail, and engage anyway. We do this because we know the niche entertainment we’ve accumulated on our phones will always be right there waiting for us. It will reward us and validate us.
As “New Media” quickly becomes “Media” we find ourselves switching from challenging the old guard to calling out the new champions. As we consume more, we comment more, we engage more, we criticize more. The hate-filled rhetoric once reserved for the “letters to the editor” is now a minute-by-minute occurrence from bots and friends and fans and those who just can’t find happiness.
Trump’s war on the news came at a time when news itself is being redefined, and in turn can almost be looked at as a war on free thought.
It started to tear down a wall that had been carved in for decades. We can always disagree, and we can always debate. In fact we should, some would argue it’s what keeps us human. Those disagreements and debates were fun around the dinner table, or on a quick call-in to your local radio show. They seemed semi-dangerous at times when you found yourself screaming at a person of opposite beliefs drunk outside a TGI Fridays. After a few minutes you either knocked each other out, or you were laughing over spinach and artichoke dip.
But, you didn’t hate each other. You didn’t try to kill each other.
That’s over now. The anti-news sentiment, the fake news movement has spread like wildfire amidst our social media platforms and there is no stopping it or even curbing it. It will only go away when we delete the apps, but we can’t do that, I know I can’t, it’s just who we are now. However, as media has now expanded so has the reach of the confused and the haunted.
When I think about what happened in that newsroom I get unbelievably cynical. Sad, of course, but cynical knowing nothing will be done, and this is just how things are now. I get scared. Downright frightened.
We’ve reached a point where a newsroom and journalists have become targets. As media has progressed, and the hate-filled critiques have come along for the ride, what’s to slow down the war? As we have more eyes and ears engaged in our work, which we are unbelievably thankful for, events like yesterday scare me to pause.
It may sound ridiculous to compare what happened at a real newspaper to what might happen to podcasters, but why? The narrative on twitter is how out-of-touch and irrelevant newspapers are anyway, so when does the pomposity of the most powerful man on Earth catch up?
I don’t know.
Perhaps it’s time I try to fight the cynicism. I don’t want this to be the world we live in. Honestly, and I know how insane this sounds but let’s be honest it is not out of the realm of possibility, last night I was up till four in the morning in a cold-sweat thinking about not seeing my daughter again because I said something mean about the Dodgers.
This can’t be the world we live in anymore. We must do better. We must be better. We at least have to try. I’d like to say this isn’t who we are as a people, but it is all we are as a people.
Let’s recognize that and learn from it.