When I was applying to journalism grad schools in late 2014, when attacks on the media were becoming more prominent but nowhere near what they are today, I was feeling pretty disheartened after spending the last four years falling completely in love with writing, words and communication. I believed (and still do) that words have a power greater than we can all understand, and if we could just somehow use them properly, maybe we could begin to unite our increasingly divided nation. An excerpt from my NYU personal statement essay showed my pie in the sky optimism early on:
Our world constantly faces an onslaught of information, broadcasted and digitalized, opinionated and marginalized. The people need someone to refine all of this material to help block out the nonsense. A professional journalist should not choose a story based on ratings, nor should he or she embellish one for popularity. A journalist ensures that the public is getting the best form of every argument, the truest truth in any story, and only the most factual evidence so that they can form their own educated opinions. Without being well informed, the people are defenseless against misinformation, corruption and propaganda. A misinformed population is indeed a population suppressed.
Well, here I am with my master’s degree in journalism, three years deeper into my 20s, and a small dose of cynicism coursing through my bloodstream. I now understand that there are problematic media outlets. There are journalists that do not adhere to my above sentiments and are probably leveraged by corporate influences. I myself am guilty of the occasional inflammatory lede or clickbait-y title. Despite this, I am here to ask you to forgive us and to understand something very important: Journalists are human beings, and they likely started their careers with honorable intentions. We are not the enemy and to be painted as such day in and day out by the White House is nothing short of degrading and demoralizing. The important thing I’m trying to get across here is that we are all individuals that can make mistakes. To be lambasted by the government and lumped in as one entity under the umbrella term “the media” is unfair and this is something that holds true for every profession. There are bad scientists. There are bad engineers. There are bad doctors. Does this make all those with careers in science, infrastructure or healthcare dishonorable? Obviously not.
Another line from my personal statement: Well-educated reporters and honorable journalism will be a necessity until the end of time. Perhaps this will only hold true for as long as those reading the news are interested in knowing the truth. This doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to tell it, though. That’s the thing with journalists. You can’t shut us up and we certainly aren’t going anywhere.