Scummy weasels and death peddlers: What some people think about journalism (and why we tolerate their ignorance.)

“Your mother didn’t raise you right.”

I forget the context of that comment, but I know a woman yelled it at me over the phone once when I had the temerity to ask her a question about something someone she knew had done that landed that guy in jail. The implication was that I had nothing better to do than make people miserable and that if my mother had raised me properly, I’d know how sleazy I was being at this very moment.

The reason I bring this up is the story that is making the rounds, thanks to Dana Loesch’s speech at the recent CPAC event. Loesch, a National Rifle Association spokesperson, told the room that the mainstream media just loved it when someone went on a massive shooting spree:

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it,” Dana Loesch said Thursday. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back (of the room).”

As someone who spent a good amount of time in a newsroom and even more time teaching budding journalists, it’s a little hard to swallow that statement. (I’m not alone in that regard, as multiple journalists have called out Loesch for her statements at CPAC.) The point here, however, isn’t to poke at Loesch but rather to let you know that although the statement is a bit more hyperbolic than most of those made about the media, it’s not rare that people think about journalists this way.

Former college basketball coach Bobby Knight turned hating the media into an art form and a cottage industry. Here are 10 of Knight’s most “memorable” soundbites, about half of which involve him fighting with the press. (Number 8 is my favorite, in which he compares journalism to prostitution.)

Knight isn’t the only person to hate the media for being the media. The clip of CNN’s Jim Acosta trying to get then president-elect Donald Trump to let him ask a question went viral in the days leading up to Trump’s inauguration:

And he wasn’t the first president to rip on the media in front of a large group of people:

However, perhaps the greatest diatribe regarding how journalists react to disasters came not from a politician, but rather from musician Don Henley. His 1982 release of “Dirty Laundry” was No. 1 on the charts that year and really picked apart the way in which TV journalists appeared to enjoy “disaster porn.”

Personally, I’ve been called words I’ve been asked to avoid using on the blog. I think “scum” was the most user-friendly word I could include here. I’ve been accused of having vendettas against people for reporting that the caller’s son got involved in a shooting some place. I’ve been told to get a real job. I’m sure if you asked any of your professors who worked in the field, any one of them could tell you similar stories in which people took out their gripes on a journalist or two.

Still, as Allison Sansone noted earlier, you are serving readers who need you to get them information, even if that information is unpleasant. Of all the things I’ve seen that were nauseating, destructive or worse, I’ve never felt particularly happy about them. Sure, the adrenaline is pumping and the anxiety goes through the roof, so I can see how people would think I was “up” a bit while on the scene of something. However, I was never happy to see a dead guy, a fire-scarred woman or a flaming house full of dead dogs (all things I had to witness.).

This field can be a rough one to enter, especially if you enjoy people liking you or your work being positively appreciated on a universal scale. (I remember somebody once remarking about this idea, “If you want to be loved, go plan kids’ birthday parties for a living.” Personally, I find that more terrifying than covering a lot of the stuff I covered.) However, if you read through the responses the reporters gave to Loesch’s statement, you’ll find that they felt the job was worth it and the experiences associated with some of these traumatic events led to a greater sense of self.

I can’t think of many careers that will get you all of that. Even if it means you have to apologize to your mother for what people think of her child-rearing skills.

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