Why the Homeless, Albuquerque, and America Need the “Opposition Party.”

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

media hate graphicThere’s a tendency to “write off” some professions. It’s a very bad habit.  For years, victims have included used car salesmen and preachers. Now the media have joined that “elite” list.

The media were recently derisively referred to as the country’s “opposition party.” This is a tragic lowering of our country’s level of social discourse, and will do nothing except possibly perpetrate irreversible societal damage.

In our openly divided and fractionalized culture, those who contribute to all this online verbal viciousness (or perhaps cannibalism is a better word) appear from the anger of their posts to have inhaled or imbibed massive doses of digital “courage.”

With that in mind, I think it would be positive for us as a community to have a “let’s be nice to media” day. Can you imagine how someone in a local newsroom would  feel if you called their station and said something like, “I’m one of your viewers (readers or listeners), and I wanted to thank you for the service you provide our community.”

The newsroom employee may faint, but I’m confident you would cause a change for the better in a typically cynical and frenetic newsroom.

After suggesting we start this “let’s be nice to media” day on a recent Facebook post and asking people what they would do without the media to learn about social ills and their overall contextualization, some people’s digital courage and lead weighted fingers started pecking away feverishly on their keyboard.

But why is the head of a homeless shelter so interested in and supportive of the media? Here’s why.

My Ph.D. dissertation  dealt with how the media—and by “media” I mean print, radio, television, and Internet news sources—both local and national portray the homeless. I soon came to see that many people base their perception of the homeless (and many other things)on what they see, hear, or read.

While there are certainly some stereotypes of the homeless presented in the media as well as some inaccuracies, they are mistakes and in most cases not attempts to slant the coverage. And what would you suggest as an alternative?

For a number of reasons, many people are unable to visit local food banks or missions, and they rely on the media to be their ears and eyes. Trash the media, and you will ultimately further hurt the plight of those most unable to defend themselves. You will end up with a culture that is even more cynical and jaded than it is now, in which people believe nothing anyone says is true unless that point of view agrees with their own.

Let me give you an example. Some totally fake news has been making the rounds stating that President Obama is being billed for his  “vacation scam.”

Tragically, this falsehood is being shared and disseminated by individuals who routinely bash legitimate news organizations such as CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times. These individuals make a habit of dubbing the reports from well-respected news sources as  “fake news.” and yet they portray obvious real fake news such as in my example as truth. If the false story in my example reinforces a person’s point of view about Obama, that person may share it without investigating whether it was true.

My undergraduate academic training is in journalism, and during that period I wrote for the University of New Mexico Daily Lobo and worked in a number of area newsrooms, both as an intern and as a paid employee. I never saw any attempt to slant the news or present a one-sided story. What I observed over and over was a number of committed and talented individuals who wanted to tell both sides of the story and let viewers know what was going on in the community.

An article by a former TV reporter does a great job of explaining what the media really do. Here’s one comment: “A reporter doesn’t write something and go on-air with it because it sounds good. The photographer is involved. A producer goes through it. Then, a managing editor checks it. Sometimes even more people will sign off on something before it makes air. . . .That’s what helps tell a balanced story, even if it’s not what you believe.” Please read additional comments from this experienced reporter with an open mind.

As I have dealt with Albuquerque’s media for over three decades, I have seen that same pattern continue. However, that dedication to duty is apparently lost on people who responded to my Facebook post. I received comments that were angry, troubling, and bordering on the delusional.

Here is part of what Franlou wrote: “The lying media needs to be returned to what it was in the ‘60s. Now they are just a tool of the left and out to destroy anything that doesn’t fit their agenda. I know you spend your Sundays on the radio on the radio, and  I even listen, but if you are going to support the drive-by media then myself and my friends will no longer support you.”

A request to Franlou for clarification has gone unanswered.

This was another “interesting” comment. Larry wrote, “The media only report what they want to. It’s mostly fake news so they can stir up trouble.”

Tesa said, “It would be a good idea for Joy Junction to get out of politics.”

Here’s the answer to Tesa. We are not in politics. We do not do political advocacy. However, we do advocate for or against issues when carrying out of those issues has helped or could hurt the homeless. Please look here to find examples of what is important to us.

Just had to share this one. Marty wrote, “It isn’t all the media—just the liberal media like the (NBC) Today Show and Matt Lauer that chap my hide.”

Here’s another one that made me chuckle. Jamie suggested, “I think if they operated on compassion and not ratings, it would be different.” How so? Try telling that to company bosses, shareholders and more. For better or for worse, news organizations are businesses.

If you’re still convinced that the media are biased and lying, then formulate a diverse point of view by listening to or watching various news sources. Just don’t tell me they all colluded together. It doesn’t happen—really!

Here are some news outlets you could check out and compare: The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Al Jazeera English, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Reuters, AFP, The Associated Press, Britain’s Daily Mail, The Guardian, CBN News, and many more.

Former New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Gregg Marcantel summed up what’s currently happening pretty well. He commented, “Over-generalizations have affected those you passionately serve and my own profession for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the greatest human reasoning errors known.”

So anyone up for a “let’s be nice to media” day?  If you’re not, then what personal agenda are you possibly hanging onto?  Just remember that love and civility always trump hate—hands down.