As journalists, we have a responsibility


cA Baton Rouge television station ran something today that has me rather upset. They shared a video from a Texas station, where two men were caught fighting outside of a Lubbock convenience store.

The reasons for my upset are many. Firstly, the video is incredibly violent. It’s an awful, graphic fight. There’s no intervention; no one stops it and there’s no hero saving someone from bullying. Secondly, the chants from spectators are harrowing. They egg the scene on, even laughing when a man is knocked to the ground and his face pummeled. They are delighting in the brutality. Thirdly, as a media representative, I just can’t for the life of me understand why it’s been shared and shown.

When I was a child, my biggest worries when watching television were whether Gargamel would actually get the Smurfs one day, or that Shawn Cassidy would ever find out how much I truly loved him. Times are changing, people, hell, they’ve already changed. When children watch television today, they are more aware of the world around them and the evil that comes in to play. They see pedophiles, terrorists, school shootings, cinema shootings, images of horrific traffic accidents. They’re seeing too much carnage, and my profession is at fault.

My worry is that these young people hone in on these violent images and, unfortunately, they find them funny. Case in point, how many of them are videoing random slaps and hits and calling it amusement? They’re becoming desensitized as such an early age, that it’s no wonder we read of teens and young adults with little to no value for human life. There are statistics that support this. According to a recent study, the average child watches ‘8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. That number more than doubles by the time he or she reaches age 18.’ That’s horrible. That is a staggering number that has got to change.  Maybe I’m at a crossroads, but I feel like we’re (journalists) not doing enough to stop ramming these images down the throats of children. I’m not saying we need to censor them and not show them, but I do think that if we do show them, there needs to be a clear message as to why. I think something should be learned by showing them.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not the perfect journalist. I make mistakes. I offend people. I make them unhappy at times with what I have to say. I anger people even when I’m sticking to the facts. I get that, but there’s one thing I’ll never do; one thing I’ll never be. I will never give column inches to highlight what can be perceived as humor in bullying. I will never be “that journalist” who wants to fill her paper with images simply to sensationalize.

A colleague and I had a conversation recently. Someone had said that people were inherently good, and he and I didn’t agree. I think people are inherently mischievous. I think they find it funny to cause trouble, to be naughty and to stir. For example, children are always doing something they shouldn’t. Our job is to teach them what is right, not what is wrong. They already know that. It may sound harsh, but it’s true. Being bad is fun sometimes. It, in the eyes of children, gets more attention. I think there’s something wrong with that. Shouldn’t we be making an enormous fuss when our children do the right thing? Shouldn’t we be reminding them that it’s the way to behave?

Children are exposed to more and more violence with each passing day, and I think that as a journalist, I, or should I say we, have a responsibility to not add to that. I don’t want to be known as the woman who killed childhood. It’s already died a death from the one I remember.

A child gets their greatest exposure to violence from the television and the internet. In this day of fast paced news, cell phones with cameras and people posting something every second, it’s hard for them to not notice what they’re viewing. The images are everywhere, because media agencies are promoting them. And yes, you can say all you want that your child isn’t allowed to watch certain programs or look at certain sites, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing just that.

The witnessing of violence isn’t like it was when I was a kid. I knew it was there, but it wasn’t thrust in my face every moment of every day. The cops dealt with the bad guys so my friends and I didn’t have to. They saw the images, not just first, but exclusively. That was their job in my young eyes. Now they battle not just the bad guys, but hunting down perpetrators who spread images on a global scale. What a complete waste of their time. Imagine how it feels as a journalist when my colleagues across the globe are part of the problem. No wonder no one trusts us or wants to talk to us. I don’t think I would either.

I hope I’m different. I try to be, and hope that I succeed, even if it’s only in small doses. I don’t want to be “that journalist.” I want to stick to the truth, even if people don’t like it or try to claim my facts are biased, hell, I may even poke fun every now and then based on actual happenings, but I don’t want to be someone who baits the reading public with hatred. I don’t want that for myself. I don’t want my husband to be married to that woman. I don’t want my family and friends to know that person. Like I said, sometimes I’ll get it wrong, but I hope that at least my judgment isn’t called into question. Because when that happens, when I become “that journalist” who promotes hatred and violence in all its forms when it isn’t news, then that’s it, I’m done.

 


Comments

  1. Delores Sheets Jeffries says:

    Thank you Charlotte. I tend to agree with you on this subject matter. Thank you for bringing it to the attention of those who may not see what is happening!!!

  2. Robbie says:

    So you watched something that totally offended you? I’ve got some prime ocean front property in Arkansas you’d be interested in.

  3. R. L. Harrell says:

    Thank you Charlotte. I more than tend to agree with you. To take a slight detour, a similar sentiment is why I find the K-Mart “Joe Boxer” ad extremely offensive. There are those on social media who find it “funny”, “cute”, “no worse that Victoria secret ads”, but it takes something that has been innocent for children and shifts it into the titillation-sex-exploitation-for-profit field. All of us adults need to step back and take a fresh look at what we are doing to innocence in America.

    R. L. Harrell

  4. Shannon says:

    I personally think the news media shows entirely too much of many things. Violence….ABSOLUTELY! Other things that I think are inappropriate are scenes where there are fatalities (whether it be a car accident, fire, gunshot, weekly police reports, woman filing false report with know mental issue…guess HIPAA does not apply to the media, etc…) No one and I mean NO ONE needs to see their loved ones lying on the ground covered with a tarp just so this, that or the other station or paper can have a headline! Talk about desensitizing! We often look to the media for details and answers to questions that is quite frankly none of our concern. I am very sympathetic to the loss of a life and have no problem with that being reported but the “fine details” of an incident are not necessary. I LOVE the Creole but even you all put too much info out for the public. I applaud you Charlotte for you stand on this ( and Common Core). Obviously folks don’t get that your column is an opinion column that is often laced with facts and truth (what a terrible combination :)). Maybe the Creole can make it more clear to media comment bullies that you write an opinion column. Speaking of media comment bullies….a lot of news stations and online papers just allow folks to trash talk on a link that is posted. If you are not going to monitor what gets said, don’t put it out there. Not ever reader wants to read the F, R or N word, hear folks call each other disgusting names or simply just insult one another to get a rise out of folks. Those folks should be blocked or prevented from commenting. I know it is quite easy for me to delete or block someone from my social media account. I have read many articles on here about Sorrento and too many folks comments are just left for all to read. Exercise your journalistic and ownership rights and delete that mess or hire someone to monitor comments that are made online (this applies to any media outlet who chooses to post online articles).

  5. Lourdes says:

    Thank you Charlotte, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  6. Rachel Simpson says:

    I completely agree…except the part about people being inherently mischievous (I really don’t know why that statement was thrown in there). But that’s for another discussion.

  7. Carolyn Schexnayder says:

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said, Charlotte. If u think times have changed since ur childhood, think about mine! I was raised in the 60′s and early 70′s and yes, the times they were a’changin! I think the main difference in then and today is the fact that we had limits! Whether our parents believed in spanking or not, (mine did) we knew there were certain things we could NOT do or get away with without suffering the consequences. Today, there are NO consequences for anything. If parents don’t enforce limits by the use of consequences and give little junior everything they want, for fear they may hurt the little ones’ psyche, then you cannot expect anything else than what we have today. A group of future leaders that do not have any respect for boundaries or even life itself!

  8. Jeannette Montz says:

    I agree with you all the way. I just wished all journalist would feel the same. I blame them for fifty per cent of this country's problems.

  9. Judith Barker Landry says:

    Thanks for this excellent article. I'm re-reading Richard Weaver's book, "Ideas Have Consequences." He wrote it in 1948 and said this:
    "We approach a condition in which we shall be amoral without the capacity to perceive it and degraded without means to measure our descent." I'm afraid that, as a society, we are almost there.
    Judith Landry
    Plaquemine, LA

  10. Erica Gautreaux Babin says:

    Too many people don't believe in an objective morality. As we overcome inhibitions to certain behaviors, the column of violent behavior in society will be longer than the column of good behavior. I saw the posting of that video but I chose not to watch it. I suspected it was bad and knew it would disturb me. I did not want that image implanted in my brain. I prefer the emotionally moving videos of people interacting in altruistic ways with others.

  11. Carolyn D'antoni says:

    Thank You Charlotte, I Tend To Agree With You.

  12. Who and where are the decision makers? The fish stinks from the head. If anyone in your organization came up with this kind of stuff, Brad or you would stop it. One possible way is with our wallets.

  13. it is sad when they have to broadcast something from out of state, just to create a thrill for the audience…. SAD, very SAD why not show the GOOD someone is doing to be a better example of How God can use each of us to help one another

  14. Valerie Meiners Comeaux says:

    I always enjoy reading your commentaries. I just want to add–since we agree children's exposure to violence is almost constant–that the next steps are for parents and schools to equip our children with thee tools they need to be compassionate, to remain sensitive to others' suffering, and to imagine a world where real violence is not a form of entertainment.

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