Journalism 101

Monday marked my work anniversary. On Sept. 3, 1997 I was hired as a sports clerk for the San Bernardino Sun. And I became an official member of the media.

In my 21 years of service as an “enemy of the people,” I have covered everything from Little League Baseball to high school and local colleges, spent summers interviewing Major League baseball players and even covered a Super Bowl.

Sure I work in Sports, the “toy department” of the industry, but over the years I have dealt with my share of stories on athlete tragedies. From preps to pros, I have had to write and edit stories dealing with alcohol, drugs, suicide, car crashes and more. But I have also talked with professional athletes that have come back to their hometown and talked and worked with local kids to inspire them to a brighter future.

After more than two decades, I still love my job. Even as the walls have begun closing in, after more rounds of layoffs and buyouts and shrinking resources.

I hate all that is happening to my chosen career field, but still love journalism at it’s core.

Journalism is, essentially, gathering information, breaking it down, analyzing it, and packaging it and distributing it to the masses, so they will be informed of what is going on in the world around them.

It is more than a career path, it is a calling, a public service. Anyone still left in the game loves it, on some level.

Despite all of the downsizing, and cries from the public, we still love it.

You have to, otherwise why would you do it? Bad pay, bad hours, and an email box full of complaints on the one thing you might have screwed up during the 50-60 hours you were putting in on a 40-hour salary.

If you are educated and qualified to do this job, there are plenty of other things out there to do. But still we persist.

Most of us are information junkies, and are eager to tell the world what we have discovered. The search for Truth has led most of us on this journey. We take our calling as the Fourth Estate seriously. It is about finding the truth and presenting it, unbiased, no matter which side of the political, or religious spectrum it falls on.

All of which is something that our colleagues among the talking heads on TV have failed to deliver.

When they talk about newspapers being left-leaning, or right-leaning, they are talking about the opinion pages, not the news pages.

We need to be reminded. Journalism is not slanted, it is not biased, it is presenting the truth.

Over the years I have dealt with angry parents or coaches or readers that have found a way to complain about our coverage, or usually the lack of coverage, of their team. But nothing compares to this “enemy of the people” nonsense.

The news industry has tried to defend itself on this matter, but has only been met with more angry rhetoric and death threats, all of which has led to active-shooter training at the office. Let that sink in for a minute.

The People don’t seem to be listening, so let’s try some Journalism 101.

Journalists are not the “enemy of the people.” Journalists ARE the people, regular, everyday people. They have spouses, they have kids, they have families and friends who care about them. They want to do their job the best they know how and live their lives.

Yes, there are rabble rousers out there, looking to rile up one side or the other, spreading rumors and swill just to get a reaction or make their side look better. But those kind of people are in virtually every office in America. There is always someone ruining it for everyone else.

Nothing should be more sacred in this country that the First Amendment — Freedom of speech and Freedom of the Press. Without those assurances, tyrants, whether they be in politics, or business, or your community, will run amok if unchecked.

Responsible journalists stand on the front line, guaranteeing you will know what is going on in your world. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

If you are tired of the mass media on the national level, pulling to one side or another, take a look at the community level. Community journalists at your local paper are still working hard to bring you the news, the real news.

Stay informed, stay involved, and stay connected to one another. The World may seem like it is coming apart at the seems, but there is far more things that unite us than divide us.