Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hot Topic, No Easy Answers


Journalism’s crucial role in helping democracy function is sometimes forgotten amid the commotion of biased debate and the messy nature of the news business. But anyone who stops to examine recent examples of journalistic success and the substantial civic impacts of various news media investigations cannot help but be impressed by the vital role of the press. 

The Internet is one of the most remarkable things human beings have ever made. In terms of its impact on society, it ranks with print, the railways, the telegraph, the automobile, electric power and television. Some would compare it with print and television, the two earlier technologies that most transformed the communications environment in which people live. Yet it is potentially more powerful than both because it harnesses the intellectual leverage which print gave to mankind without being hobbled by the one-to-many nature of broadcast television. With the Internet, journalists and everyone for that matter can get the latest “news” out to the world within seconds.

The web's effect on news reporting is considered the most clear evidence that this is a revolutionary technology: news editors – and in some cases, the governments that they observe – are no longer the gatekeepers to information because costs of distribution have almost completely disappeared. If knowledge is power, the web is the greatest tool in the history of the world.

The process that happens before a story is published has also been transformed. The web has become the go-to point for the globe when it comes to getting information; it's the same for reporters. Online, they find a multiplicity of perspectives and a library of available knowledge that provides the context for stories. Increasingly, the stories are coming from the web. People use the web to connect to the experience by watching it in real time on TV and then posting on message boards and forums. They post bits of information they knew themselves and aggregate it with links from elsewhere.

Protesters set a squad car on fire and broke windows at City Hall.  REUTERS/Jim Young

Ferguson, Missouri, arose with racial tension and riots resulting from the police shooting death of Michael Brown.  The event received considerable attention in the U.S. and elsewhere. It attracted protesters from outside the region, and generated a vigorous debate about the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans and police use of force doctrine in Missouri and nationwide. 

On the one year anniversary of this shooting, the St. Louis County executive declared a state of emergency here on Monday as officials and activists sought to regain control of the volatile streets after plainclothes police officers shot and critically wounded an 18-year-old black man who they said was firing on them late the night before.

What is the world coming to?  That’s all I ever think anymore when a new shooting hits the news.  Since when is it OK to undermine law enforcement?  Yes, there are situations where the officer may act inappropriately, but same goes for the suspect.  If people would just listen to law enforcement when they tell them to put their hands up, get on the ground, or whatever it may be without arguing or lunging toward the officer, the officers wouldn’t feel threatened.  Law enforcement is there to protect us.  They put their lives on the line for us, every day. Journalism has both a positive and negative affect on this situation.

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