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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Seeking truth ad luck

Kaitlyn Marks
Class of 2021

(10/2017) When I was a little girl, I loved to write. I still do, of course, but there was something magical to me within words, stories, books, movies and news. Everything about the journalism and writing fields appealed to me. The intensity of scouring the earth for truth, collaboration with the intellects of others, bringing together the perfect culmination of words and media in a way that makes people feel something, act or change all made my heart swell with a desire to be a part of something. However, I’ve simultaneously become someone who does not enjoy watching the news. With constant bombardments of two contrasting forms of media becoming the popular standard on television, I find myself appalled by not only the ‘fluff’ pieces that seek to gain views and chatter from the public, but also by the bias and opinionated reporting styles that have become the cornerstone of journalism. In the movie "Good Night and Good Luck", the famous journalist Edward R. Murrow takes on the battle of sourcing the truth within reporting and gives a speech on the dangers of the uses of technology, journalism and television as forms of entertainment rather than informational and educational.

Murrow foreshadowed a world where people were lazy. He imagined a country where no one cared about the problems facing anyone else; he described it as a "built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information", and I believe that he was right. When a story is reported today, especially with the new forms of ‘flash journalism’ that bring instant live coverage of incidents to the fingertips of the viewer, it is centralized around garnering views, providing the necessary information but not full details, and concealing anything that would make a central figure or group appear in a negative light. It is the responsibility of the journalists and the press to cover stories in their entirety. Their duty lies in uncovering facts and truth amidst a chaotic world. Words are more powerful than any weapon, any person and anything on this earth, especially when they are used to provoke a change. Any good writer or speaker can carefully place eloquently chosen pieces of language together in a way that brings people to tears, sparks anger, eradicates barriers between groups or nations, or teaches the reader or listener something they couldn’t have learned any other way.

I believe that Murrow was right about the dangers of news as an entertainment source rather than an educational source. If every piece of media that we view is targeted towards making us smile, laugh, or forget our worries, how can we learn and grow? How can we develop ourselves, realize how huge the world around us is, or gain the strength to be more philanthropic and active in bettering our communities? In his famous speech, Murrow’s summary point was to draw on the equality of power between the viewer and the press in shaping the style of journalism we use. He said, "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it's nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference". Every person who picks up a newspaper, turns on the television, reads a book or a magazine or listens to the radio or a podcast has the power to direct its content simply by listening, reading, or choosing.

Of course, I still believe in choice and free will in itself. My favorite pastimes include reading, watching television and movies, and scrolling through social media. I don’t deny these interests for the sake of sounding more intellectual; they are a natural part of the media industry today. Entertainment is still a valuable and core piece of journalism. The message of Murrow’s speech that is relevant to today, for me, is a forewarning about laziness and a call to action for a revitalization of the informational and educational aspects of the field. If people turn a blind eye to the powerful and sometimes unpleasant stories and facts, there will be no reason for anyone to report them or to create a program or story in which they are shared. There is a vicious cycle where the viewer controls the content, which in turn controls the viewer.

With the conflicts in the modern world and our very own political landscape, we should be doing everything in our power to weed out the negatives or the falsified, quick-view type of information and instead seek out the powerful and true facts. Terrorist attacks, incidents of violence and racial conflict, political upheavals, and strife in foreign relations all are dependent on the media to share them in an accurate way in order to make a change and improve the state of things. While it is difficult to embrace opposing viewpoints, to expose the truth and expand horizons, news and technology should be used to convey messages that defend ideals, people, morals and intellect. They should promote civil discussion of ideas and allow for a platform to exist for discourse to be worked through. Issues and turmoil, especially within the darker corners of society and the world, should be brought to light, exposed and given a chance to be made right.

As a culture, we should not be reliant on fast and easy reads or the quickest method of getting information. In the words of Murrow, news and technology become a "powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must indeed be faced if we are to survive…we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizen from anything that is unpleasant." In most dystopian literature, society has become ruined by the leaders’ desire to keep the citizens from knowing or experiencing anything that is unpleasant. Without being uncomfortable, our comfort zones can never grow. Without hearing, seeing and experiencing things that are harsh, difficult, dangerous or sad, we cannot empathize or care enough to make a difference. With that, I hope to conclude by acknowledging that media can be used in a positive way for entertainment, but as a society we must shift away from such a fast-paced world of instant gratification and more towards a media where facts, truth, and the unpleasant are embraced for the greater good of educating people everywhere.

Read other articles by Kaitlyn Marks