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Media Responsibility Out The Window

A freelance journalist by the name of Ryan Schuessler said in a recent blog post that he was leaving Ferguson, Mo., and not returning. The reason? A feeling of shame at the behavior of the growing population of journalists there. Schuessler was sent there to do some work for Al Jazeera America (Don’t boo him for it. Freelance journalists go where the money is and are some of the hardest working individuals in the industry because they don’t have a guaranteed salary per se).

Some of the behaviors that outraged Schuessler include but are not limited to:

-Cameramen yelling at residents in public meetings for standing in way of their cameras

-Cameramen yelling at community leaders for stepping away from podium microphones to better talk to residents

-TV crews making small talk and laughing at the spot where Mike Brown was killed, as residents prayed, mourned

-A TV crew of a to-be-left-unnamed major cable network taking pieces out of a Ferguson business retaining wall to weigh down their tent

-Another major TV network renting out a gated parking lot for their one camera, not letting people in. Safely reporting the news on the other side of a tall fence.

-Journalists making the story about them

-National news correspondents glossing over the context and depth of this story, focusing instead on the sexy images of tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.

-One reporter who, last night, said he came to Ferguson as a “networking opportunity.” He later asked me to take a picture of him with Anderson Cooper.

Journalists these days, from the local to the national level, get this sense of entitlement that they are somehow above us. Take, for example, this hilarious reminder of just where the rights of the common folk are compared to reporters:

Constitutional

Up until recently, I was a journalist. In many ways, I still am. I will always be a journalist at heart. I want the full story, I want the facts, and I want to make sure I know all sides to the story before I come to a conclusion. There was a time, in college, when I was taught responsible journalism. I was taught how to behave myself when covering a story. I was informed of ethical practice. I had to take a class entirely on the basics of reporting a story from start to finish.

Maybe some of these guys skipped all those bits in college. I dunno.

One of the many reasons there is such a perceived bias in journalism is that reporters don’t even pretend to be on the same level as the rest of us anymore. They are themselves an elevated class whose purpose is to be the gatekeeper who selects what information goes out. I strongly recommend you read Schuessler’s post in its entirety, because it reveals just what we’ve all known all along – many journalists in this day and age don’t believe themselves to be members of our society. They think they are above it.

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