Thursday, June 6, 2013

WTF doesn't mean Wire Tap Freelancers - or does it?

I’m very disturbed by all the scandal surrounding the wire taps on journalists lately. If you haven’t heard about it (were you living under a rock?) check out your trusted internet news outlet for more details. I'm not hear to discuss the details, so here's my one sentence, high level overview:

Allegedly, the American government violated individual liberty by tapping the phones and emails of journalists.

Who know’s if it was legal or illegal. I’ll leave that to be answered by people much smarter than me.

What worries me is how these taps seem to violate the sanctity of journalism. I’m sure you’re laughing at me now. You’re thinking ‘the media is as corrupt as politicians.’ And maybe you’re right about the media machine. But I have to believe there are individuals who pursue journalism for pure reasons: for the love of writing and for the passion to bring information to the people.

In school I studied English literature. We had classes in journalism but not a formal program. My outlet for journalistic interests was the school paper. I joined and eventually took a turn as Editor-in-Chief. Well, my two BFF’s at the time and I shared the title. So I guess we were Editors-in-Chief.

Covering campus events was a challenge and a privilege. I helped to cover student government events, social events, theater, sports, and even guest-speakers who came to our little town. The biggest guest speaker I covered was former Pakistani Prime Minister, since assassinated, Benazir Bhutto.

I always got a thrill out of seeing my by line. But I wrote for reasons other than my ego. I wrote because I believed in it. I saw reporters as the eyes and ears of every man – charged with capturing as much, as honestly, as possible – because an individual cannot be everywhere. I believed giving the information the people was important. I believed asking questions about the world around us was even more important.

And this is what journalism means to me: sharing information and critical thinking. One of the pinnacles of journalism is the anonymity of sources. If reporters roll on their sources less people will be willing to blow the whistle.

Will the scandal over wire taps on journalists phones serve to further erode the public’s faith in journalism? How will this impact the future generation of journalists?

I don’t claim to know the answers here. Regardless of the answer, I believe it’s important to ask the question.

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