For more than 25 years I was proud to call myself a journalist. I worked with people who were dedicated to two important ingredients of great reportage – be fair and be factual.
Over many years we walked carefully and respectfully when reporting on the burying of victims, interviewing pained loved ones and we dug hard when defending the rights of those who were oppressed. Day after day, week after week and year after year we were involved in deep and important discussions of what we did and did not have the right to report. It was the very core of what we did.
There had always been a line that it seemed no-one would cross and no organization would even consider being on the wrong side of. I have watched over the years as that line has slowly faded away. News executives will claim it’s in the name of truth while media accountants will count profits driven by salacious comment, rumour and innuendo – all that drives ratings and sales.
Today that line was most certainly, obliterated.
Given an inch the reporters took a mile – the home of the suspected San Bernardino Killers was open to the media by the landlord. What followed was a frenzied charge to the bottom of decency. Journalists, cameramen and producers rampaged through the home – if it had been the public doing the same the headlines would have read “Looters Invade Suspects Home”.
Video shows one TV reporter next to an empty crib of the suspect’s child, carefully arranging a pillow with a teddy bear so it would be seen by the camera and creating more emotion. Another live shot showed a reporter walking through the apartment that was so packed that everyone inside was literally shoulder to shoulder.
They fumbled through personal effects, files, clothes, all that there was – I’m not even sure what they were trying to get.
It looked and felt wrong.
There are many media sources who will proudly claim they weren’t in the apartment so they did no harm, but I dare say the majority will all run the video, the photos and the accounts of being there. It will be like an accident, can’t look at it and can’t look away.
The event became like a public execution, the very tenant of justice had been thrown out the window.
What’s even scarier is that line is gone now, anything goes.
Almost 40 years ago Hunter S Thompson described his feelings on journalism, excuse the language but the essence of it seems to be correct.
“The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits—a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas