When introducing news writing to the introductory class, I always tell my students that the role of the media is not to tell the public what to think, rather to tell them what to think about.
Technology allows journalists and the public instant access to an unbelievable amount of information; however, the average citizen doesn’t have the desire, time or capability to sift through and decipher that information. This is where the media comes in. The topics that are brought to the public’s attention and those that are ignored are largely determined by the media’s decision on what it covers as well as when and how it is covered.
This weekend Kansas City star columnist, and former reporter, Mary Sanchez spoke to this idea when she talked at a brunch I attended Saturday for the Journalism Educators of Metropolitan Kansas City. One example she spoke about was a column she recently wrote regarding the water issues in Flint. When packaging the column for the web, she was able to include links to the several of the sources she used to support her piece – most of which were available to anyone, not just journalists. However, most people would not have taken the time to find the research themselves – instead they rely on the media to do it for them and trust that what they read is accurate.
This is why the media regardless of niche or format has a responsibility to report what they write about accurately, but also use good news judgment in determining what they will report as what is in the news is also what is in American’s minds.