There was a time in my life that I really and truly wanted to be a journalist. I even went so far as to take journalism classes to fulfill that dream. It is funny though that in the course of one semester, I was both enamored with and disgusted by the whole world of journalism due to two very differently taught classes that I took.
I took a class titled simply Journalism. In that class I had a professor who had been a journalist turned teacher. He taught us that there was nothing greater than to be a good and honest journalist. You go where the story leads you and you let the facts tell the story. I remember him saying that no one was there to hear "your" opinion, unless your were writing an editorial or opinion piece. If you were reporting and writing on straight news, then stick to the facts, keep your bias and/or opinion out of it and do your research in order to make the story as factual and honest as you can. He also drilled into us the three sides of every story....yours, theirs and the truth, which usually hung somewhere in the middle. He emphasized that although "yellow journalism".....that which is biased, misleading or dishonest.....had been around since journalism began and with a few well placed adjectives and a whole lot of bias and dishonesty anyone could be a yellow journalist and sell papers, but for him and other journalists who took pride in their profession and their ethics, there was nothing worse than a journalist without integrity. Sadly though, these types of journalist, with ethics and integrity are becoming as extinct as the dinosaur.
In that same semester I was also taught in a Mass Media class that you went after a story at all cost. The more sensational the story the better and if you could sway your reader with those well placed adjectives....well then all the better. This teacher also espoused the glories of getting in a bereaved parents face after their child had died or going after the most salacious angle of a story that you could find. After all, wasn't it about selling papers and getting people to turn their TV channel to "your" story. In this particular class, facts, ethics and integrity were glossed over for sensationalism and a healthy dose of selling your soul for ratings.
While my journalism professor gave me a huge push to becoming a journalist, my mass media teacher tainted the profession for me and all my dreams of being a true journalist were dead to this girl. I am glad I chose as I did because I am sad to say, my mass media teacher and those like him, obviously had greater pull when it came to forming young up and coming journalists than my professor did and if you don't believe it, then just look at our mainstream media today.
Yesterday, this whole journalism thing was brought back to me as I was reading through facebook early in the morning. There was a story that ran through my news feed over and over again as friend after friend of mine and news outlet after news outlet kept sharing it. The story took place in Washington D.C. over the weekend. This weekend had been the big March for Life Weekend in D.C. and people from all over the country were there to support pro-life and to peacefully protest Roe v Wade. It is a yearly event which draws thousands and includes churches, youth groups, families and individuals. It was however not the only march going on and D.C. was over run with people from all over the country. In the midst of all of this, two marches apparently collided and the media misinterpretation and bias, along with the help of millions on social media who pass news "fake" or otherwise on like it is written in stone showed us all how corrupt the news media truly is and how gullible and unwilling to fact check and how willing to jump on the "hate" bandwagon that most people are these days.
A young man named Nick Sandmann and a group of kids from his Catholic High School in Northern Kentucky were there for the March for Life. Many were wearing "Make America Great Again," hats. They were I am sure full of life, school spirit and the enormity of the crowd likely had an effect on everyone's behavior there. The kids were chanting their schools name and yelling and being kids. Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Tribe was also there for the Indigenous Peoples March. According to many sources most of those from the Indigenous People's March had already left and only a few remained. Phillips, along with those from his group remaining were also chanting while he played his drum. What happened next was video taped and what was initially put out on social media and picked up by news outlets around the country was very unsettling. We saw Phillips, a war vet still chanting while Sandmann stands almost face to face with him....smiling. It was a short video clip and in it you can see Phillips continue to beat his drum and chant, while a sea of kids seem to surround him shouting their own chants above his.
The headlines and stories that accompanied this video were that Sandmann and his group of school friends surrounded Phillips and tried to bully and intimidate him by chanting racial slurs and closing in on him. Sandmann standing there face to face with Phillips smiling appeared as nothing short of arrogance and intimidation. Much ado was also made about the fact that Sandmann was white, Catholic and of course wearing the MAGA hat. Within hours, the internet was in an uproar and the video had been shared millions of times. People were calling for swift and strict action to be taken against Sandmann and his fellow students. Memes were being made brutalizing these kids and Sandmann's smiling face was seared into all of our brains. Sandmann's high school as well as the state of Kentucky, trying desperately to get ahead of this embarrassing and completely damning video were already denouncing Sandmann and his classmates and promising the possibility of expulsion for all of them.
I will admit, that the video was not pretty to watch and I contemplated writing a much different blog on it, but there were a few things bothering me about it and as I sat in church they kept coming back to me. The first thing that bothered me was the fact that Phillips, being elderly and having several of his own people still there, that they were not surrounding him and protecting him from these "bullying" teenagers. I know darn well that if I were with a group and this was happening to someone elderly in my group, I would be protecting him, not just standing by and watching it happen. And yes, why if this situation was as contentious as the stories said, were people video taping instead of stepping in to stop the intimidation and disrespect. Finally, in the original story it stated that there were 60-70 students in this group who were viewed as the culprits. That part is likely true as you can see many there. If that is the case then they were obviously there with chaperones. You don't let a bunch of high school kids room free in a place of thousands where you risk losing one. So why were those chaperones not jumping in and stopping this. You know there was at least one adult there. So yes....this all had me asking questions and I decided that before I wrote anything, I would do some fact checking. Thank God in what seems like a sheeple kind of world, I was not the only one with questions.
By late morning, other videos with an alternate view and story came to light. Apparently there was more than one person in attendance with a cell phone and these videos answered at least a few of my questions. In this new video, you see Sandmann's group chanting and being excited kids, while Phillips and his group were at a distance. Then you see some others who were obviously triggered by the kids MAGA hats and they started egging the situation on as Phillips started moving through the crowd towards the kids. It was Phillips in fact and not the kids who fueled this situation and it was Phillips who came face to face with Sandmann and not the other way around. I am sure it was unexpected to have an elderly man coming face to face with you with what looked to be the intent of intimidating a bunch of kids, while people in the crowd are cheering him on. Yes, Sandmann smiled because what else could he do? If he was truly a disrespectful bully as the first video claimed him to be, he would not have just stood there and smiled.....knowing teenagers.....he would have been running his mouth and firing back.....but he didn't. He merely stood there smiling.
On viewing both videos, the whole thing made me sick. It made me sick because these kids who were there became the poster children of hate in the span of just a few hours. This version of the story told by the one who videod it in the first place, then had it perpetuated by the media and then further sold as gospel by millions on social media caused unnecessary and unfair embarrassment to the state of Kentucky, to the high school these kids were from, to the Catholic Church, to the other pro-life marchers there, to their chaperone, families and most of all, to the kids themselves. And because the internet is forever, this can cause the kids involved and most especially Sandmann, difficulty in getting a job, going to college and even out in the world.....and why?
Were these kids really being disrespectful and hate filled or were they simply being hyper, excited kids at a huge event away from home? Where they targeted because they were white? Because they were wearing MAGA hats? Because they were there to support pro-life? Because they were wearing clothes with their Catholic high schools insignia on it? My guess and from what I saw on the latter videos, the crowd was actually triggered by their hats. Sad.
Were these kids perfect, I am sure not but they were obviously not the instigators of this situation nor the hateful and intimidating bullies either. Who knows, maybe the kids were chanting "Make America Great Again," or "Build that Wall". So what if they were though, it is their right under the constitution and you don't have to like it but as American's we all have to support it, just as it's others right to chant "Impeach Trump", to wish him dead on national TV and to make fun of him on every late night show and sitcom. You may not like it, but as American's you have to support their right to say it. But how about we also hold the adults including Phillips and the ones egging the situation on, responsible for their parts in this situation. Did Phillips not fight a war so that people can wear any hat they want and chant anything they want? I think there was a whole lot of disrespect going on there that day and it doesn't sit only on the shoulders of Sandmann and the other kids there.....and if you watch all the videos, the facts don't lie.
So honesty and ethics no longer walk hand in hand with journalism and it is getting more and more evident at the biased turn our news continues to take. When you have to fact check the news before you can decide whether it is true or not (and we are talking CNN, FOX and all the rest) then we have hit an all time low in yellow journalism. Of course though, part of the blame falls on us. We are so weak of mind anymore that things we would never have believed or fallen for 20 years ago, we pass along as gospel today without a seconds thought. The media has so much control that we as a country would willingly see a kid or kids expelled from school and possibly ruin their future without even bothering to check a fact. And often when the facts are laid out in front of others, they choose the story which fits their agenda over the truth every time. That folks is on us.
Until next time