I was ear-witness to a murder this week.

At first, I didn’t think much of it.  “Firecrackers,” I said to myself and dismissed it as no concern.  Since it’s fall break, I thought neighborhood kids were just having a little fun.

About an hour later, my wife texts:
Are you safe?

Yes. Why?

Road rage shooting at Lancashire and Emory.
SUV involved and someone in it died.

I drive an SUV.  The intersection is just a couple of blocks away from home.  She was out of town.  Naturally, there’s a momentary cause for alarm, and she wanted to know if I was alive.

The next day, I drove through that intersection to get home, and cameras from the local news stations were camped out, waiting to do live shots from the scene of the crime.

Last week, I apologized to Millennials on behalf of the media.  Today, I apologize to the working media on behalf of the American people.

Dear Journalist: the vast majority of us don’t realize how emotionally taxing your job is.

You typically encounter us at our worst.  Accidents.  Crime scenes.  Government graft and corruption.  The vagaries of sports fanaticism.  And so, you show us ourselves at our worst.

Not only are you charged with telling the story “live, local and late-breaking” ad nauseum at 4:00, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 10:00 and 11:00…you must also do Facebook Live updates between your lives shots, because it’s all about the clicks these days.

You get to hear or read your newsroom manager’s “post mortem” about your reporting.

Then, you go to Facebook and read All. Those. Comments.

Some audience comments are thoughtful.  A few are downright insulting.  Occasionally, they’re sickeningly creepy…especially to the women who work in journalism.  If you’re (un)lucky, your post starts a flame war in the comments, and it goes viral.

About the time you’re getting over the shock of what you saw yesterday (and maybe lost sleep over last night), the assignment desk has a follow-up report for you to turn today.  Except, there is nothing new to report from the public information officer…so you have to “enterprise” something.

And that’s where you get met with “fake news” or “the real enemy” insults from the people you’re trying to interview.  We’d rather the story die.  Why are you sticking your microphone in my face?  Respect for your basic human dignity is suddenly non-existent.

We ignore the notion that you’re just trying to satisfy the blood-lust we (news directors and audience) have…when in fact, you’d probably rather the story just go away, too.

As I drove past your co-workers, some I recognize and know by name, who were camped out at the entrance to my subdivision, I wished they weren’t there.  It’s a black eye on my neighborhood.  The proximity of this murder story frightens people on my block.

But, it’s not your fault, journalists.  You didn’t pick the location where someone would die violently in the street.

And while some argue, “If it bleeds, it leads…the media only show negative stories” – you can bet your last dollar that those same people are scouring the newspapers, web sites and Facebook Groups to find out what’s going on down at the corner.

We are insatiably hungry for details, and then we want to kill the messenger when the details don’t suit our palates.  This goes for news at every level, in every arena of life.  Crime.  Politics.  You name it.

I apologize, journalists, for the double standard of expecting you to report impartially and then excoriating you for not favoring “our” side in your reporting.

I apologize, journalists, for the people who assume that when you hold “our” side accountable, you are biased against “us” and have a hidden agenda…as if you have time to concoct and carry out a nefarious plan to libel your “enemies.”

I apologize, journalists, for those among us who forgot, or never cared to know, the role the Fourth Estate played in the founding of our nation…and in your ongoing mission to hold accountable those who form public policy and wield legal and executive power.

If we, the People, are ever to govern ourselves well again, it will be because you, the Press, remain free to inform us how the public Trust is being handled by our elected officials.  You are the ally we must have.


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