This perky article about how one newspaper — Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise — is eliminating its “brick and mortar” newsroom is a prime example of how damaged the journalism mindset has become.
The loss of real estate is not a good thing when you are a business, but the article is all chirpy about how transience is a good thing, and future-thinking.
Let’s not pretend, even places such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple — the behemoths of technology — all have sprawling campuses, with Amazon looking for a second headquarters.
You had a building for 180 years: you still need one, no matter where technology takes society.
Because the building serves as more than an anchor: it is the place where coworkers interact and collaborate. It is a signal to outsiders that you inhabit a place in their community.
But the profession has a way of deadening the senses, making those in the business of chronicling reality increasingly unable to do so.
I had noticed that obtuseness even before I became a journalist myself, but there is one instance that stuck with me.
I was in my late teens when my family and I went on vacation to Florida, and like news junkies that my grandmother, mother, and I were, we always sat in the hotel room and watched the local news (we also read the local newspaper and listened to the radio in the car).
There was one story about a young boy, about 12, whose mother left their abusive father, and said father murdered her in front of the eldest — the 12 year-old (who had two younger siblings).
Hours after this child witnessed the death of his mother at the hands of his father, a television reporter thought it was a good idea to interview this weeping and distressed child for a story.
I will never forget this young man for as long as I live. I wept right along with my family who then called to see if we could adopt those three orphans (they had relatives, but we were absolutely serious about it). I still cannot think about that young man without being shaken.
However, that journalist had no business interviewing a traumatized child. If, at some later date, he felt it was his duty to speak, he could do it on his terms, not the reporter’s.
But that was not the time for a ratings grab.
That child’s whole life was destroyed, and he was without his mother.
You do not put a microphone and camera in front of him and ask him how he’s feeling.
Because that is a very unfeeling thing to do.
It is one thing to show the reality of carnage and dysfunction, but when your report tells people there are now three orphans because an abusive father murdered his estranged wife in front of the own son, people are not stupid. They got the memo. You do not need to drag out a grieving child to drive the point home.
That child is not a pawn or a prop.
I often thought about him, and what his first experience was without his protector there.
As a journalist, I wouldn’t do that. There are so many ways to drive the facts home without exploiting a lost little boy.
Journalism is about navigating through reality to find the truth. You need more than a sharp intellect: you need emotional literacy.
You can show a child in mourning. It will get attention, but the motives for doing it are to get attention for yourself and your career, not a child who saw his protector get mowed down by someone else who was supposed to be his protector.
Everything you thought you knew is wrong.
And then a stranger looking for sensationalism corners you.
When you have a press with no empathy or understanding, they cannot gauge the truth or reality.
It’s all about building themselves up, never seeing that they are being torn down.
And it’s why they’ll spin their decimated fortunes to sound wonderful.
Because they never really got that whole emotional literacy part to begin with.