Treat journalists better to avoid moves to public relations
I am writing to disagree with Ben Bogardus on his piece entitled “Stop the newsroom-to-government revolving door.”
Bogardus wrote “[Max Reiss] and other journalists are doing the profession a disservice by going from being trusted and impartial reporters one day, to being partisan political spokespeople the next.”
I have never met Max Reiss, but like him, I am a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. I am also a former TV anchor who left the business in favor of a career in public relations.
While I do not know the details of Max’s new position, I know many of my fellow journalism school graduates have left the news business for careers in other industries, including politics. I have yet to find one who left a job in news to take less money or a worse work environment.
Instead of calling journalists choosing to improve their lives “a disservice to the profession,” perhaps the frustration should be pointed at the management of giant news companies who insist on paying talented anchors and reporters significantly less money than they can earn in other fields.
While Bogardus is right about the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code instructing to avoid political activities, that does not mean individuals are able to privately have opinions.
To suggest that Max couldn’t do an unbiased interview with the lieutenant governor because he took a job working for the governor is like saying sports reporters should not be allowed to cover their alma maters or any teams they have cheered for before. If he had already secured the job in the governor’s office prior to the interview, of course I would say that should require full disclosure to the audience. However, even Bogardus himself wrote there is no indication of a connection.
Talented journalists know the difference between private opinion and public reporting. As Walter Williams wrote in The Journalist’s Creed, “I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.”
If those traits are in short supply in today’s media, the blame goes on the media companies for holding wages down and treating talented employees as replaceable parts.
Don’t blame the journalists who decide to change careers and improve their lives.
Charlie Hannema is Director of Public Relations at the Broken Arrow Public Schools in Oklahoma.
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