Over the years, I’ve heard a number of people talk about how the media tends to be biased. How it’s impossible to read an article that’s impartial in some way, shape or form; and how it’s become unbearable to watch reporters on T.V. talk about the same current events over and over again.
It’s true. This has always happened.
Except for the fact that for the first time ever, my generation is experiencing an entirely new environment where even the government has spoken against credible news sources and essentially, belittled my profession.
“You go to school for four years and they tell you that our job is to find truth. That our job is to maintain facts,” said Oriana Bravo, a third year journalism student at the University of Florida. “This is something that is drilled in to you as a journalist and for us to be in our profession, and to be told that it’s fake is a hundred percent insulting.”
Bravo currently works as a co-anchor and executive producer for the NPR-affiliate Noticias WUFT Spanish radio show and will soon be a Good Morning America intern in New York during the summer of 2017.
“It’s so hard to have people talk to you,” Bravo said. “You work so hard to get sources and people slam the door in your face over and over again, I’ve had people tell me that what I do is a lie…that the media is like poisoning our brains.”
Although the art of storytelling has been a passion of hers since high school, Bravo said that because earning respect from others, and feeling valued in the workplace is an element she greatly values, she does not foresee herself continuing in this field of study, and will most likely enter the entertainment realm.
ABC-affiliate TV20 Morning News Producer Patricia Matamoros, emphasizes the fact that journalists are the necessary watchdogs in society and essentially, are the only ones who expose the truth about anything and anyone.
“What we’re doing is bigger than us and we need to stick together,” Matamoros said.
Part of the problem however, comes from Hollywood movies and T.V. shows that oversimplify the actual workload that the job entails.
“Everybody has this idea that it’s a very glamorous profession…they underestimate this profession very much,” Matamoros expressed. “Understand that it takes a lot of challenges for us to overcome.”
For one, “right off the bat, it’s difficult to get people to talk to you…they don’t want their name on the internet, they don’t want their name on T.V., they don’t want their face on T.V., they don’t want to be associated with anything because they don’t want to get backlash,” said Laura Barrero, a producer for WUFT and executive producer for WRUF.
And when you finally have your sources lined up, sometimes there are conditions that are set forth to ensure both parties are content and fully aware of all expectations.
“As a journalist, I’ve definitely felt pressured, I’ve definitely done stories that are difficult and I’ve had the person that I’m interviewing tell me ‘this is a very important story, you can’t mess this up and I’m going to be checking up on you to figure out if you’re doing this correctly,’ Barrero said. “And that’s important, I welcome that.”
Pressure is an understatement. The hesitation I have received from numerous individuals when asked if they could even sit down with me to simply discuss their thoughts on this “Fake News” phenomenon that’s turning into an era and why they believe journalism was important enough to pursue as a career, was overwhelming. Not only do people underestimate the profession in and of itself, but individuals also fail to see how hard it is to simply be yourself—meaning, your own personal views, thoughts, emotions, reactions, are never to be seen or discussed in public. Which is why we never hear journalists speak out about anything. It’s not that we don’t have anything to say, on the contrary. But honoring the idea of remaining unbiased is important.
Essentially, once you’re in this profession you’re expected to become a robot, immune to emotions. Even when it comes to your personal social media accounts. Once you’re affiliated to a news organization, the lines are blurred because your name is no longer just yours*; you become the face and/or the name of that company. So from that point on, everything you do and say is filtered. It has to be. You learn that your own voice does not matter because it’s discredited when your sole purpose is to simply report on facts.
*All journalists interviewed for this piece had to get approval from their respective boss’ and were asked that I mention that commentaries are strictly their own and do not represent the company as a whole.
Although Barrero said it’s annoying that fake news is circulating the way it is, and that “it takes away from the jobs that we’re trying to do correctly and it hurts us at the end of the day,” she also acknowledges that most people are not trained to filter what is real and what is not.
“People need to do just a little bit of more research before they share something, before they say something,” she said. “Google is your friend. Make sure that you double-check anything before you out-source it…that’s what journalists do.”
Matamoros points out that just because a story “goes viral, [it] doesn’t mean that it’s news,” and people often forget that.
CNN en Marcha Español reporter Amaury Sablon said that the circling of false information happens more often than people think, and even to those who have good intentions. Sablon openly criticized his mom for recently sharing an article about Cuba on Facebook and immediately fact-checked it alongside her. He said there was no data to back up any of its claims.
“People share without even reading it and just read the headlines without seeing where it comes from,” he said.
Sablon said that in his opinion, journalism is one of the toughest careers out there. He has personally witnessed protests where individuals have come up to him and his CNN crew and yelled at them and pressed cameras against his face.
He admits that although working out in the field may be tough sometimes, you learn to ignore it and walk away. He admitted he had once considered switching careers but now reminds himself that the good always outweighs the negative comments.
“People don’t see it that way but we are public service men and are modern-day heroes,” Sablon said.
The thing with journalism in this country, Sablon mentioned, is we focus so much on mainstream media that we forget that smaller, independent outlets also exist. A lot of people also go into freelancing and travel to dangerous war zones, sometimes even become prisoners of war, we have a lot of people risking their lives with this profession in return for little money and little-to-no recognition, just to bring you the news.
For Sablon, the passion is there. The thirst to uncover hard-hitting news stories is constantly there and despite the hardships, he knows he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I love informing people about what’s happening in the world… you can literally change the world,” he said.
Most people forget that journalists are human too and news affects us just as much as the average citizen, if not more because we’re constantly bombarded with information overload, and sometimes it’s hard to put on a brave face when all you want to do is shut it out and pretend the world is a utopia. Nevertheless, we do what we do because it’s our passion, because it’s a necessity and because we strongly believe that knowledge is power, and the truth will always prevail.
“News and journalists are the fourth pillar of democracy. Without information spread out un-biasedly, you can’t have democracy. Without us, there is no way of a productive society,” Barrero shared. “It can’t be the government because they’re biased, and it can’t be every Joe-schmoe out there in their house.”