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It’s a gift to be a journalist in this moment.
Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. It’s the only way to get through.
Freelancers (like I am right now) spend every month counting our pennies, making sure we’ll make rent and have a little left over for food and coffee and the other vices of our profession. For those lucky few with a steady job, they’re wondering how long until downsizing and budget cuts will put them out on the street.
In addition to journalism’s grim financial picture, we’re finding ourselves targeted by the government and by far-right fascists for violence and repression in a way we haven’t faced in decades.
This is also a time when our skills, used in service to people and planet, are vital to survival. Journalists can give voice to the voiceless, while also shining a bright searchlight into all the crevices and hidden places where the powerful do their darkest acts.
That’s why I get so furious at the journalists that are throwing in their lot with the other side: with bigotry, with Islamophobia, racism and nationalism, and even with overt fascism. Admittedly, anyone proudly espousing these beliefs is a reprehensible human being, but I take the nazi media personally.
You see them more and more at protests, and one of their common refrains is “I’m just a journalist.”
They say it after asking leading questions asked not out of legitimate interest in the answers. They’re looking for ways to slice and dice activist quotes in a way guaranteed to make us look bad, and make the issues, however much our lives depend on them, seem foolish or even dangerous.
“I just want to show both sides,” they’ll tell you.
Even when you point out that the “other side” in this case, is literally calling for the genocide of entire races and other marginalized people … when one side is arguing that we should allow war refugees to die at sea … when the enemy is trying to make our earth so polluted it can no longer sustain life … they cling to this belief that being a journalist absolves them of responsibility.
As a gonzo journalist, I’ve discarded the myth of neutrality and openly embrace my biases so my readers know where I’m coming from. But even reporters working in the traditional paradigm have a responsibility in the stories they tell and how they tell them.
For example, if a photojournalist takes two dozen photos of police violently arresting an activist, but the photo that makes it into the paper is the only one that appears to show the activist resisting arrest, that journalist bears responsibility if that photo is used by police, or in court.
Likewise, when the media uncritically amplifies the voices of white supremacists, or allows statements by politicians and police to go without fact checking, the outlets responsible are anything but neutral. Instead, they’ve become willing participants in a destructive system.
Journalists that advocate for war, and who promote poverty and suffering rather than justice, have blood on their hands.
In some ways, I blame the myth of neutrality for the disreputable, fashy “journalists” I describe above, who go out drinking with Neo-Nazis by night, then claim to want to fairly represent you in the morning.
Neutrality has given them an umbrella to hide under. Their behavior is also part of the way the right-wing is hijacking concepts once beloved to the left, like “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion,” and redefining them as excuses to spread bigotry.
We must give no platform to hate. The flip side of that is that we must also work to give a platform to those who have never had one.
From the warming climate to the rise of fascism, this is a state of global emergency.
As a journalist, you must remember that even if you don’t take a side, the choice is made for you by the company you keep and the stories you publish.
“There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people.” — HUNTER S THOMPSON, “BETTER THAN SEX: CONFESSIONS OF A POLITICAL JUNKIE”
Read the full issue: Gonzo Notes 10
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the right-wing is hijacking concepts once beloved to the left, like “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion,” and redefining them as excuses to spread bigotry. We must give no platform to hate. The flip side of that is that we must also work to give a platform to those who have never had one.
You’re never ‘just’ a journalist by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://bit.ly/GonzoNotes10.