People often ask me why I chose to be a print journalist while earning my degree at Fresno State. Why didn’t I go with broadcast or radio? Don’t I know that people aren’t reading the newspaper as much anymore? You won’t make as much money working for a paper as you would in public relations or advertising, you know that, right? They’re not tricky questions to answer.
Print journalism, particularly in newsprint, is still the single most reputable source of news available in our world.
Yes, in a world consumed by the fast-acting, fast-assuming nature of the digital age, the newspaper is your one true source for accurate news. Why is this? Because we wait. Because we research. And because we step back from the overwhelming torrent of instant information to take a breath, get the facts right, and do our job as a public watchdog properly.
The problem with the instant age is that while it provides incredibly quick coverage — such as the Boston Police Department announcing on Twitter it had caught bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev — it is also so fast that fact-checking falls by the wayside and misinformation can spread like wildfire.
Consider the case of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
In March of 2012, a story from political blog (huzzah internet) the Palmetto Public Record posted a story claiming two anonymous legal sources expected Haley to be charged with tax fraud “as early as next week.”
A mere two minutes later, Washington newspaper The Hill tweeted the story which then was re-tweeted by several sources including the Washington Post and USA Today — two accounts that when combined have over two million followers, or people who receive their tweets. These two institutions, among others, never printed a story about the allegations in their newspapers because it lacked reputable facts by the time they went to print.
Mark Twain once said, “a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” As such, Twain would probably enjoy a good laugh at how fast this flat-out lie against Haley — she provided IRS proof a few days later showing the accusations were completely unfounded — was picked up by the news.
Though, fortunately, Haley’s campaign for governor would recover from the lie, this begs a larger question. Where is our news going as the internet makes it faster, sometimes so fast that even journalists can’t seem to keep up?
I am not against change. At 25, I am young and keep up with Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media sources now considered integral to a journalist’s career. I understand these things are important, and can help enact real change in the world. But I am not blind to the harm these sources can cause, and I remain steadfast in my belief that because of its inherent nature of a slower approach to the news, the newspaper is the best source for high-quality, truthful reporting.
It is this belief that drives me here as a reporter at The Madera Tribune, a job I’m often answering even more questions about from friends. Why would I want to work in Madera? Why not work in Fresno or LA or something?
I’ve lived in a small neighborhood off of Avenue 15 and Highway 41 nearly all my life. I love Madera County, from our forests up in the mountains to our flatland lakes and cities.
It’s interesting that I even have to defend my choice to work in a small town. Life here is slower, more rich and, much like a good newspaper, those qualities are misunderstood by people who cannot comprehend why we live and work the way we do.
I finished my degree at Fresno State in December of last year, and received Fresno State’s Outstanding Print Journalism Graduate of 2013 award at our convocation ceremony last Friday. Not to brag, but it is an award held by fellow graduates employed at such prestigious places as The New York Times. Alright, maybe I’m bragging a little. While I don’t know where my career may lead me one day, I do know that being able to write about the fascinating stories and the amazing people behind them here in our city and county is something I will always be grateful to do.
Some friends ask me, do people even care about Madera? And I always say that yes, we do. I’ve been with the Tribune for less than a year, but I have already met and seen so many people doing wonderful things that make it a truly exciting time to be a writer here.
My promise to you readers is to always bring a fair, accurate, and honest voice to the news affecting our area. I pride myself on not allowing opinion or bias to influence the things I write, even if it’s something I disagree with. News is never the place to let your personal feelings dictate the story.
All I ask in return is that you continue reading our paper and continue to work with me at making Madera a truly great place to be.
And, if what I’ve already seen is any indication, I know neither of us will be disappointed.
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Mark Smith covers courts, sports and general assignments for The Madera Tribune.