The Wheel and Axle

Murphy’s Law, Part 2: Journalistic Integrity

by on Aug.31, 2016, under Film & TV

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Continued From:

Murphy’s Law, Part 1: Social Relevance

What is more fascinating in hindsight, to me at least, is that – beyond the strong feminist theme of the show – Murphy Brown is a show that depicts what journalism should be.

In the show, we see investigative journalists do, well, actual investigation. They run after stories, ensure their sources are strong and credible, and deliver their findings in manners worthy of the term “journalist.”

Contrast that with today’s “journalism” and you will cringe. A lot (though not all) of today’s “journalists” are what I call “armchair journalists” whose primary weapons, apparently, are Google and Twitter. How many of today’s new crop of newspeople are really journalists? Too few, unfortunately (Anderson Cooper is, happily, one of them).

Nowadays, you open maybe five out of ten articles (this is a rough estimate from experience and not in any way scientifically sourced), and you find out they’re composed of one to two sentences, maybe an entire paragraph if you’re lucky, followed by a series of screenshots of, say, Twitter reactions. The headlines are occasionally misleading clickbait, and there is hardly any meat in the actual piece.

Of course, one cannot completely blame these consolidators (I hesitate to call them journalists or even writers). In today’s world of instant information, the name of the game is to get a scoop faster than ever before. The advent of socia media has caused news outfits to adapt to the insta-info revolution, a time when print media would be a day late to a story that breaks open real-time on the world wide web. Waiting for print can cause one’s publication to be irrelevant, so folks now generally gobble up a “story” with little regard to research, style, and occasionally (and worst of all), integrity.

That said, is this really an excuse to forego journalistic integrity just to ensure the business survives and thrives?

The main thrust of journalism is to report and expose the truth to the public, all with integrity. Otherwise, it becomes irrelevant…

… or worse, a shameless propaganda machine that deliberately twists facts to try and alter public perception. Just ask Fox News. (Of course, the fate of Joseph Goebbels should be fair warning to what happens to nasty propagandists who foment hatred and spin outright lies.)

Almost twenty years since its last episode, Murphy Brown and its lessons are needed now more than ever in a world full of misleading networks of information, which include not just some news outfits but also websites that deliberately disseminate lies and false information. Any aspiring journalist as well as any good netizen who wishes to remember how to be discerning and responsible in what he shares online should watch and learn from it.

The bonus? You will pee from laughter over the adventures of Murphy (and her big hair), Miles, Jim, Frank, and an adorable newbie who once was actually named Corky Sherwood-Forrest.

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