Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bring Back Our Journalists

Last Sunday May 4th I read the op-ed article in the New York Times called “Bring Back Our Girls” which was about the kidnapping of the Nigerian teenagers.  The article stated that the girls were taken in the beginning of April. (They were taken on April 14th in fact.) This story wasn’t a hard news story, it wasn’t on the front page at all.  It was buried deep  in the “Sunday Review” section, the opinion section, back on page 11.   These girls have been gone for almost a month, and this small article is the first I have heard of their disappearance. Read the story here:

All I could think after reading the article is “why hasn’t this been reported by anyone?” And, “why is this the first time I am hearing about this?” CNN has become a laughing stock of the cable news networks  as they have run 24/7 coverage of the missing Malaysian plane.  Even President Obama took a swipe at them at the Annual White House Correspondents dinner as he joked that he had to go to Malaysia to get CNN to even cover him and that they were still looking for their table.  (Note to CNN: we get it, the plane is still missing, no one knows where it is, move on until you actually have breaking news.) This made me question why.  Was it because more people were missing on the plane? Actually, there were 276 teenage girls taken by the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria, there were 239 people aboard the missing Malaysian plane. Did they just need to fill air time, and this was the easiest way to do it?  Is it because they have reduced their number of reporters so much that they didn’t even know about these missing girls?

The small opinion piece in the New York Times didn’t go unnoticed amazingly. The small article started a groundswell on social media starting the hashtag of #BringBackOurGirls. It is because of the influence of social media that this story is finally getting the attention it deserves. It is no wonder that Pew Research recently reported that about 50% of Americans are getting news from social media.  I would argue that groups are going to social media to try to get their stories out because they can not do so via traditional channels.  I personally have been seeing Twitter feed for weeks regarding the uprising going on currently in Venezuela.  They have been protesting in the streets for weeks, people have been killed and jailed. I finally read a news report about it 6 weeks later.

The truth is, the ratings for cable news channels are going down, for some channels more than others.  Pew Research recently completed their “State of the Media” report for 2014 where they reported that the big three cable news stations are all losing viewers.  The big three CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC lost 11% of their viewership combined in 2013.  The biggest decliner was MSNBC which lost 24%, followed by CNN at 13%, and lastly FOX at 6%. Fox however had more viewers total than CNN and MSNBC combined.

When I started this blog, I spent a lot of time worrying about the layout, the pictures, the colors….all of which you may have noticed or not.  A friend said to me that none of that matters in the end, that it was the content that will drive readership.  Truly, I know he is right.  What applies to me also applies to the major news networks.  When they stop running the same stories 24/7, report all of the news, do solid, unbiased investigative reporting, and bring stories that move people to care, people will tune in instead of tuning out.  They have more than a job, they have a responsibility to shed light on the stories of our world.  If the news networks want to bring back their ratings, they first have to bring back our journalists.


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