Have you ever heard of The Yellow Kid? The Yellow Kid was the name of one of the first American comic strip characters that ran from 1895 to 1898 in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, and later William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Created and drawn by Richard F. Outcault, this comic strip was ripe with social commentary in newspapers known for sensationalism and extreme editorial reporting. It’s where the term “Yellow Journalism” came from.
In today’s day and age, we are coming back to a new form of “Yellow Journalism” though it’s seen by a lot more people through social media and the internet and packaged in high-definition video and “talking heads” that need plenty of censorship for bad language. I can’t help but see the reflection of the Yellow Kid in today’s media.
For those of you who don’t know, I began my writing career more than 30 years ago as a U.S. Navy Journalist. I attended THE school for military journalism, The Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. (now, the school resides at fort Meade, Md.). I have written hundreds of news articles, press releases and feature stories on the wonderful men and women of our armed forces. These articles, stories and photographs have been published in small town newspapers, major metropolitan newspapers and military publications.
I told you this because I wanted to talk today about the state of journalism, or actual lack thereof, in the world today. In my opinion, journalism today is not what it’s supposed to be. Journalism is defined as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” It is also the product of such activities. That being said, the way it is done by the news media today does not even come close to that definition.
We seem to have crossed that fine line between actual journalism and opinion news, and a lot of it revolves around politics. Now, I’m not trying to get political here, but it’s being abused by both sides. People are comparing what is being reported in the news to Watergate in the 70’s. I can tell you right now, we are nowhere near that.
If you’ve ever read “All the President’s Men” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, or seen the movie with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, you know how much they went through to get multiple sources to confirm their story about the going’s on in the Nixon Administration. Until they got those sources to confirm, their editor wouldn’t run the story.
Today, it seems like one anonymous source is good enough. The facts are being skewed to fit the agenda, and journalists are not supposed to have agendas. The public relies on these news sources to be the independent watchdogs of government, and yet, they are injecting themselves to be part of the story. Journalists are supposed to report on the story, not be the story.
Journalists today are selfie-taking, opinion making, propaganda artists that don’t care whether or not the story is true, as long as it puts them in the spotlight and meets their agenda. One of the great movies on what journalism is supposed to be is the Academy Award winning “Spotlight” about the child abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church. Just like in “All the President’s Men,” the journalists here went out of their way to get the facts before they printed the story. Without writers like this, the truth remains buried and silent.
Writer/photographer/film critic Seno Gumira Ajidarma said, “When journalism is silenced, literature must speak. Because while journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with truth.” Though I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly, we must also agree that writers have a certain responsibility above journalists.
Our stories must reflect the good, the bad and the indifferent in society in an attempt to bring about the improvement of the human condition. It was books like “The Jungle” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” that brought about change in society when journalism failed. I’m not trying to say that all writers need write profound soliloquies and novels professing the highs and lows of society, but rather talk about it in a way that reflects the good and the bad.
In the Forever Avalon series, I touch on racism, women’s rights, faith and family through the adventures of a modern family in a medieval fantasy world. I reacted to the good and the bad of these “hot button” issues and showed the reader how best to resolve such issues. I’m not professing to be an expert in this, but I give an honest opinion and open approach to dealing with these subjects.
Norman Mailer said, “If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.” Sad as that may be to hear the truth, we (journalists, writers, poets, novelists, etc.) help shape the mindset of society through reporting the facts, giving opinions and reflecting on society today. I just think we need to make sure we separate fact from fiction so that the people, our readers, can make an informed judgment.
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt