Today is a difficult day in America, a difficult day to be an American.
Watching the videos of my fellow countrymen breaking windows to get into the U.S. Capitol, seeing the photos of our elected lawmakers huddling under chairs in the House chamber: these are images of our very democracy under attack -- all in an attempt to disrupt what is usually a ceremonial certification of an election.
As sad and disappointing as the situation is, what is worse is what got us here. Disinformation is real. The vilification of the news media is real. At some point in the last few years, we’ve bifurcated reality, politicizing verifiable facts and even the act of journalism itself.
America is a democracy -- a government by the people, for the people. And in order for the people to govern themselves, we need a well equipped press corps to keep us informed. There cannot be two sets of facts, two universes of truth. We need the reliable journalists to win, to keep us informed, so we can debate ideas, not facts.
Reporting is not a political act, but it’s also not simply stenography for the powerful. Digging, investigating, holding those in power accountable -- these are the ideals that journalism holds in the highest regard.
Most who work for reputable news organizations are obsessive in their caution to limit any appearance of impropriety. They adhere to strict editorial standards that the audience is largely unaware of. They are bound by policies and standards that guide how and what they report all designed to ensure credibility in the information they share.
And yet, disinformation runs wild. The downside of a platform where anyone can post anything, is that anyone can post anything.
I know many people do not like to pay for news. Frankly, it makes fiscal sense not to when you view it as a commodity and so much is available for free. But when news is commoditized, and taken from an aggregator or a social network, the provenance -- and credibility - can be a gamble.
It also means that there is ever less money funding the responsible reporting that we need so much. There are technical means to disable ads; there are methods to sneak around paywalls. But each of these actions means that journalism is ever so slightly less economically viable, with dire consequences.
Newspapers go bankrupt.
News websites turn to clickbait to attract the remaining ad-viewing traffic they so desperately need.
And others who abide by no ethics step up to fill the void, which can lead to plagiarizing total fabrication or conspiracy minded fantasists, breathlessly reporting the intricate details of insane theories about the dark side of our leaders.
All of this makes trust in all media decline (even those that are obsessively reliable), makes the profession less viable, and makes our democracy less informed.
All of this makes today’s scenes on Capitol Hill possible.
Journalism is not the enemy. It is the shield that protects us from those that wish to turn us against each other.