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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2019

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Editorial: Journalism caught in crossfire of social media outrage

Editorial: Journalism caught in crossfire of social media outrage


We at The Blue & Gray Press welcome our readers to a new year of us serving the University of Mary Washington. With classes well under way, it’s high time to say goodbye to summer, and what a summer it was.

With political circuses and historic Olympic performances as well as tragic losses of life, there was no shortage of opinion spread out on social media over the summer months. These opinions, coming from all over the political spectrum, have largely transformed the profession of journalism, a practice that we at The Blue & Gray Press take pride in and work hard to perfect. However, with the accessibility of social media, anyone with a smartphone can now be considered a part of the “media,” threatening our modern idea of “journalism.”

During the Olympics, the Chicago Tribune came under fire for a tweet, pinning Olympic gold medalist Corey Cogdell as the “wife of Bear’s lineman.” The paper was immediately blasted by media for being sexist by omitting the wife’s name in the tweet. However, from a journalism perspective, the tweet had no issues as it appeals to their Chicago-area audience. As a bronze-medalist in rifle shooting, it is unlikely the average reader would have known about Cogdell’s success, but her partnership with a Chicago celebrity makes it newsworthy to their readership.

Recently, Brock Turner was released from prison, and headlines read “Former Stanford swimmer released from prison after guilty of rape.” Critics decried media for giving him his athletic credit, despite his athletic and academic background providing more context and a more compelling story. While mentioning both his rape conviction and his former athletic prowess, the average reader can become more engaged in the story.

The issues with these criticisms is that changing these headlines or tweets would be a form of filtering and agenda pushing, something that has no place in journalism. Unbiased, impartial journalism is critical to society and the ability for readers to see from different perspectives is crucial to this.

Also over the summer, John Oliver had a lengthy commentary on the current state of journalism and the slow death of print media and how it should scare us. His issue with online journalism is that the goal is different than print, which is to get as many ‘clicks’ as possible, which oftentimes involves writing about cats, not political corruption. Print serves as the rock to keep the powerful in check, and that’s what we need to remember going forward as the word “journalism” continues to change.”

All of this is difficult to grapple with, as more and more online content is pushed to one side of the political spectrum or the other. Neutral, unbiased, pure and grounded journalism is hard to come by today, but we at The Blue & Gray Press strive to achieve that goal and maintain integrity of excellence. We look forward to serving the UMW and Fredericksburg communities for the next year.