Shine the light on ourselves

“Every new story of allegations taking down a media heavyweight reveals just how much our industry needs to improve.”

My prediction: The news industry will continue to shine a light on itself, and we won’t like what we see. That’s good.

The end of 2016 brought a lot of soul searching to newsrooms throughout the country, as journalists worked to figure out how their political coverage led to just about everyone incorrectly predicting the results of last year’s presidential election. (Perhaps the biggest thing we learned is that maybe journalists shouldn’t be in the business of predicting elections. We’re reporters, not psychics.)

Newsrooms spent much of 2017 reacting to that: rearranging newsrooms, shifting assignments, moving resources to different places throughout America, questioning assumptions. This is good, and it will continue.

But in 2018, we will have another reason to search our collective journalist souls: the #MeToo movement. It’s revealed that much of the bad stuff we’ve previously covered in other industries is just as much a reality in our own. And it’s more than just sexual assault and harassment in newsrooms. Every new story of allegations taking down a media heavyweight reveals just how much our industry needs to improve. We need to take diversity seriously, in every way, from top to bottom. We need to move past a culture that makes some of the “talent” bigger than God, irreplaceable, and in their minds, able to do whatever they want. We need to get past newsroom cultures that value protection of the company as a “family” over adhering to our best ideals. We need to shine the light on ourselves a lot next year, and share a healthy amount of what we find with our audiences along the way.

What this means is that next year that we’ll continue to see coverage and criticism not just of how we cover politics, but how we cover ourselves. Newsrooms will continue to lose top, highly visible talent over bad reporting and/or bad workplace conduct. This means the way our newsrooms look at the end of 2018 might be very different than the way they look now.

I’m okay with that. We should keep shining the light.

Sam Sanders is a reporter and host of It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR.

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