Watching Titanic and defending “the media”

Tonight I went to see the Titanic 3D with some of my friends from the Setonian staff. The plan was to completely ignore the impending end-of-semester workload in favor of popcorn and drama in 3 dimensions. What happened instead? I ended up here on the blog working on something that is not graded at all. Oh well.

Titanic was the same classic movie. The 3D wasn’t nearly as impressive as I thought it might be. More importantly, I discovered something I never noticed while watching the movie before. I noticed some media hate.

Maybe I’m just sensitive. I’ve been noticing, lately, that “the media” gets a wealth of blame for the world’s problems. Several times a week, one of my professors throw out that term: “the media.” It is rarely, if ever, used in a positive tone.

In the Titanic movie, there was a push for the ship to go faster so that it could “make headlines.” Here is the dialog between characters  Joseph Bruce Ismay  and Captain Edward John Smith:

Ismay: So you’ve not yet lit the last four boilers?
Smith: No, I don’t see the need. We are making excellent time.
Ismay: The press knows the size of Titanic. Now I want them to marvel at her speed. We must give them something new to print! This maiden voyage of Titanic must make headlines!
Smith: Mr. Ismay, I would prefer not to push the engines until they’ve been properly run in.
Ismay: Of course, I’m just a passenger. I leave it to your good offices to decide what’s best. But what a glorious end to your final crossing if we were to get to New York on Tuesday night and surprise them all! Make the morning papers. Retire with a bang, eh E.J.?

Ismay: [Smith nods reluctantly] Good man.

Later in the movie , the quote is thrown back in Ismay’s face because the Titanic will definitely be making headlines, but for a very tragic reason.

This emphasis on media as the cause of the Titanic’s crash was only for the movie. There is no evidence that this was an actual influencing factor to the decisions that lead to the sinking of the Titanic. Why did the movie add this emphasis, then?

As I said earlier, blaming the media is nothing new. Especially in the most recent political elections, the media are blamed for making politicians the way they are and spreading lies.

Some important things that I try to remember is that the media is not one entity. A warning in one of the news writing books I’ve read (The Elements of News Writing by James Kershner) described “the media” as:

are a ragtag assortment of many different news outlets owned by many different people with many different agendas and priorities.

It is difficult to strike a balance between report what is necessary and what interests people (and gets them to buy a paper). News sources are  businesses after all. The old adage “if it bleeds it leads” is pretty true. Scandal and tragedy sell the best.

Believe it or not, few journalist start their careers hoping to cause the world’s problems. I know that, as a young, idealistic student journalist, I want to spread information and knowledge to all people. I want to promote social discourse and transparency.

I also want to have a job (most people do), and so I understand the temptation to write what people want to read. Many of the big members of “the media” are not so blameless but I will continue to try to defend the profession of a journalist. They are just trying to keep their jobs and report the truth. It’s a nearly impossible job.

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