The simple fact is there are times when journalists can be, well, a bit over the top, creating sensational stories not even worth the time it takes to read them.
It seems like the journalists seen on TV are more concerned with finding out the effects of getting tasered or how Lindsey Lohan is doing in rehab.
I work at Manhattan Broadcasting as a disc jockey on four stations, and when asked where I work, I usually tell people, but I have never really flown my colors. When I’m out in Aggieville, I would prefer not to be Swick from Z96.3, or Chris from KROCK.
Oftentimes, I even find myself to be slightly embarrassed by what I do. I’ve worked at places where the quality was a little lacking.
The problem is society’s reception to modern media. With outlets like Perez Hilton’s blogs, ultra-biased news channels, and overall-sensationalizing journalists, it can be difficult for people to trust and enjoy today’s media. Until a week ago, I was one of those people.
That, however, changed last Wednesday night. When the tornado tore into town, I was working as a board operator at 1350 KMAN – I realized that without media, our world would be lost. The effort of many journalists and radio personalities during the 12-straight hours of coverage during that crazy night – and the corresponding community response – have reminded me of why I love this business, and why the rest of America should too.
The core existence of the media is to get information to the public that could potentially be a matter of life or death, as it was last Wednesday night. Sure, some of us forget journalism-class etiquette and insert ourselves into the stories, but that is what makes people comfortable. It makes them feel like the media is on their side, not just striving to be as shocking as possible. (Cable news channels: I’m talking about you.)
However, the vast majority of us on the local markets try to deliver information to our public in an unbiased way. I do not hesitate to say that on Wednesday night, that reporting probably saved some lives.
Regardless of what form of media people were using, most were probably aware of what was happening and knew to take shelter from the impending storm. And even afterward, when the cleanup and recovery began, the media’s role as information brokers was just as important.
“I offered to go out and help with the cleanup,” said Aaron Leiker, program director for KMAN. “But [City Manager] Ron Fehr told me he had more use for me where I was.”He was sitting inside a radio station – again – saving lives.
The various forms of media was the sole outlet the city had to get vital information to the public. From volunteer meeting places to needed supplies to local shelters and even what to do with trash and debris, local and national media did what they could to tell people what they needed to know to get on with their lives.
Journalists did not do so for higher ratings or for air time, but because it was the right thing to do. This is our job and this is our home. That’s not to say, however, that the media didn’t help out in other ways.
Patricia Scott, a relief worker for the American Red Cross, was helping in a shelter in Abilene, Kan., for survivors of the Chapman, Kan., tornado and also spent time last year in Greensburg, Kan., – which was destroyed by an F5 tornado in May 2007 – where she said she had been offended by the actions of the media in trying to get into the shelter, including one reporter who had masqueraded as a survivor to try and weasel into the shelter.
“This time was different,” Scott said. “The reporters from KAKE in Wichita did their live report and then, when it was over, helped out in the shelter. It completely changed my opinion on the media.”
So often, as a media person, it is easy to forget why we do what we do. We complain about our jobs, bosses and the hours, just like everyone else.
It may not seem like it, especially in light of the efforts by media personnel during last Wednesday night’s tornado and the days to follow, but we are human. When it gets down to it, I wouldn’t be anywhere else, and the next time a disenfranchised, pushy reporter or another exposé on Britney Spears becomes too irritating to handle, just remember that real media is there for the people and can be just as important as law enforcement, emergency crews and city officials.
Chris Swick is a senior in journalism and mass communications, and serves as a guest columnist for this week. Listen to more from Swick at 5 p.m. Mondays on the Wildcat 91.9. Please send comments to opinion.spub.ksu.edu.