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A Little Louder, from the People in the Back

What (and who) you need to talk about when you talk about "the media."

From the Library of Congress, a 1942 image from behind the scenes in the composing room of the New York Times.

So I’m scrolling Twitter and see that the Maryland newspaper that lost several journalists to murder earlier this summer is fundraising by selling a T-shirt reading “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” It makes me mad that they have a reason to do that. I see the president of the United States repeatedly posting open attacks on the “fake” media and trying to get you to see journalists as your enemies. This makes me crazy. So I feel the impulse to make a quick comment from someone in the back, unseen portion of “the media”—me.

If you are reading this, you are probably already on the same page I’m on: You trust news from reputable sources and try to choose carefully what you believe online. But do you realize that behind nearly all of those reputable news sources, there are people like me who have spent our lives making sure the quote is reported exactly accurately, that the names are spelled right and the numbers are precise and the headlines aren’t misleading and the conclusions are warranted? Do you realize that people who go into journalism of any kind are as passionate about what they’re doing as musicians, or fine artists, or app inventors, and that we do it in an industry that is going through a tremendously scary transitional period? Even though we’re smart and talented enough to be doing something easier and less frequently attacked and distrusted?

Now you might say back to me: “Hey, don’t be so proud of yourself. You don’t work in real journalism. Your people write about cars and stuff.” 

But here’s the point: Whether you choose at a given moment to read about cars and stuff or nuclear annihilation and stuff, you’ll find producers of that reading material who believe there is a sacred contract between you the reader and us the producers of the words and pictures. I don’t know if most people think about this, but I hope you will. Behind that easily attacked name “the media” are hundreds of thousands of mild-mannered types exactly like me, who care more deeply than you’ll ever know about getting it right, who are biased in favor of accuracy today and every day.

As things look so dark for journalists on every front, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to my colleagues past and present. I know how you’ve knocked yourselves out day after day to give readers information, amusement, and diversion they can truly believe in and trust. I know the “mainstream media” that is so under attack for selfish political reasons is crammed full of others who have knocked themselves out in the same way, for the same reason.

I hope anyone who casually tosses around the accusation of “media bias” from left or right will keep in mind that the vast majority of people who work in “media” are well intentioned and deserve not just your trust but your money, your loyalty, and the knowledge that you have their backs in this terrifying political time.

Your pal, Laura

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