Some of you may know that in a former life I was a journalist. Yes, your friendly neighborhood mad-rapper-turned-concerned-citizen was once an aspiring cub reporter trying to put a mass communications degree to good use. To call me a journeyman would be putting it lightly. I've worked for (and been fired from) every publication in the city of Jackson ... literally. One in particular served me walking papers twice! Needless to say, it wasn't my "thing" at the time.
I enjoyed writing feature stories. Stories of personal interest were much more fulfilling than hard news. I could use my creativity, insert my own writing style, work at my own pace. Covering hard news was more an exact science. It required proper form, facts and deadlines. It called for me to go places and speak to people who didn't want to talk. I hated it, especially because I figured that some things simply weren't my business. That (and a record deal) probably drove me out of print journalism altogether.
But recently, as I've been penning my column and watching this city's growth, I've thought more often about the real responsibility of the fourth estate. Why does it exist? What are we, the public, supposed to get from media? Is it to simply inform us or give us the hard facts? Can it inadvertently think "for" us, or is it really a toolone that those in power use to manipulate the minds of people it reaches? Can an entire city of seemingly educated, rational people be programmed to believe what they read or see is gospel?
When I think about how important that responsibility is, I think about Jackson and how citizens have been inundated with consistent negativity. Let's face it: Our local daily goes out its way to hype the "bad" things going on in this city. I'm not saying it shouldn't report them. Hell, those folks have a job to do. But when you can see an underlying anti-Jackson tone in the placement of or the headlines on certain stories, I think the paper is abusing the power the public gave you.
Civil Rights Museum placed in Madison: front page. The subsequent rallies by hundreds of Jackson supporters wanting it in downtown: one paragraph on 2B. If your business is moving "to" Madison: front-page business section. Moving to Jackson: nothing. A Convention Center that's on schedule and under-budget hits made-up "snags." A Farish Street project that finally starts moving? Oh, that's not a story. Let's print a hack-job piece based on second-hand information to bolster a young writer's resume. Crime committed in South Jackson? No problem; it's the lead story at 10 p.m.
Folks, we are the abused children of a dysfunctional union: a press community, apparently the propaganda arm for our surrounding bedroom communities, married to the apathy of good, intelligent Jacksonians. This mix only benefits the haters. At a time when our growth is paramount, we must begin to call out these bogus "perception pieces." Write an editor; send an e-mail; call a news director. Involved in something positive? Tell someone. Get it reported. Get it printed. The only way to hold a suspect media accountable is to give them as much positive news as they report the negative. If they still fail to write or broadcast it to the public, then we know the fix is in.
As I said in my last column, this is a movement. And I urge all of you to join in. Let's begin pushing a positive Jackson.
And that's the truth ... sho-nuff!
Amen to pushing a positive Jackson. And, yes, it is a movement. And, it is moving.