Frontline reporting in America has become a struggle
The first time I wrote about a car tragedy hitting people was 15 years ago in Texas, when I was a Cub reporter. At the time, I had no trouble getting people to talk to me; everyone from on-site firefighters to bystanders were happy to lend a hand when it came to sharing information and facts.
When I was in Wisconsin last week after the devastating Christmas parade tragedy, however – when suspect Darrell Brooks, 39, walked into a Waukesha party crowd, killing six people and injuring dozens – l he atmosphere was very different.
As soon as people found out that I was a journalist, at least half tried to get me to talk about politics. They didn’t want to talk about the victims. They wanted to talk about the Second Amendment or challenge me on controversial issues, generally raving about “the media” in the process.
I always give the same answer by heart: I’m not here to share my opinions on anything. I’m here to report what happened, how people are feeling and what the scene in America is like right now.
This scene on the pitch is really, really weird for journalists in 2021, especially those of us who have been in this profession for years. I worked overseas for over a decade, returning to the United States in 2017 in the midst of what was essentially a national melee. Before I left, it was not routine for television crews to have armed security guards with them or remove station IDs from their microphones and equipment.
But it’s routine now. And in Waukesha and Kenosha – where I had been the week before for the Rittenhouse trial verdict – there was a palpable feeling of us against them from the media and civilians, regardless of the political affiliation of anyone or his absence.
I love being a reporter and I have lots and lots of friends from our tribe of journalists around the world; there is usually a sense of camaraderie among the frontline media and we all share war stories (sometimes literally) when covering important news for various media. This month in Wisconsin, however, when I approached a TV crew to see if I knew anyone or if they could share logistics advice, I first had to go through a security guard. . A photojournalist from one of the country’s best-known stations just stared at me and, when he finally spoke, was disarmingly rude. It is very likely that he thought I was approaching for the purpose of harassing the team or pretending to be a fellow reporter so that I could troll him online.
Because this type of frightening infiltration has happened and many journalists are afraid, especially broadcast crews whose trucks, tripods and cameras make them easy targets. I always advertise myself as a journalist to people I interview, of course, but my notepad and voice recorder don’t immediately advertise my profession. I am not afraid of being accosted in the street. But many others are.
Instead, I’m quite used to hearing political rants that have nothing to do with what I’m covering – and having to explain what exactly my job is. is. A lot of people I speak with engage in rants on Fox and CNN, usually complaining about pundits brought on talk shows or opinion artists. I just have to explain this: it’s an opinion.
Yet they persist. Countless, if not adorable, people have thrown out the names where they get their “news” from – right-wing or left-wing blogs and sites, saying they are the “sources” they love or hate. There is very little belief in an objective source of information these days. What this says about our relationship to the truth is worrying.
I believe journalists have a very serious role and responsibility in society, and I have been very saddened – not just in Wisconsin but in my personal life – by the reactions people have now when they hear what. i do in life. I am not naive; Throughout my career, some people have always been reluctant to give interviews, and that’s understandable. I’ve had doors slammed in my face, phones hung up, and inhospitable entertaining in the past, and it never bothered me because it’s anyone’s prerogative.
But never before have I been asked so often about my own politics, and never before have I seen seasoned journalists so frightened.
And that’s not just a bad sign for journalists like me. It’s a bad sign for news, truth, and democracy – and for America.