Several people recently indicated that perhaps it was time for me to take a break from covering police brutality and misconduct cases because my continuing coverage might make me a target for the boys in blue. To use their exact words:
“You keep writing this stuff and the cops are going to shoot you.”
Every journalist worth anything eventually receives death threats. I’ve probably received about six that I considered credible, incidentally only one of those was from a cop. It happens. It’s a part of what we do. If we aren’t making somebody angry, we aren’t pushing the story far enough. We typically laugh the threats off and make jokes about being on a watchlist or ending up on a milk carton.
This doesn’t just apply to journalists who cover cops or government entities, either. Corporations will gladly ruin a journalist’s reputation, and make it impossible for them to get work after giving them unfavorable coverage. Politicians will threaten to make certain the journalist never gets another interview with someone from their party again. Threats of one kind or another are part of every day on the job.
But the statement that the cops would strike back because of something written about their profession clearly demonstrates the point that the police are out of control. It also shows how desperately reform is needed. To achieve reform there has to be public dialogue, and the public has to be informed about the issues in order to discuss them. That one quote shows how badly continuing coverage is needed, how bad the police state has gotten, and how important it is to not remain silent in the face of advancing tyranny.
This need for an unintimidated press has been recognized since the United States was founded. As Kennedy pointed out, journalism is the only business specifically protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, this seemingly-hallowed profession is secretly hated by most, even by those that are willing to use us as a tool for their own agenda. Even Gandhi once said
“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”
He was half-joking, of course, but only half-joking.
Why we write
We don’t do it for money. Even the best paid of the guerilla journalist class won’t be buying a Mercedes anytime soon. We don’t do it for the enhancement of our personal reputation. As soon as a journalist makes an enemy by providing unfavorable coverage (or refusing to provide any coverage), every misdeed and questionable life choice will become open to public scrutiny. We don’t do it for fame. Even those of us that have obtained some sort of notoriety know that it is short lived, and our inboxes make us keenly aware of the fact that for every person we reach there are ten more that view us as nothing more than an “agitator,” a “malcontent,” or my new personal favorite a “rabble-rouser.” We don’t do it for self-esteem. There is nothing more horrifying for a journalist than the comments section on one of their own articles, where every English major in the country converges to find any and every typo contained within the article.
We write because we feel we have to, and that if we were to stop, somehow, a piece of the truth would be lost. Most of us have our own hidden personal reasons for doing what we do. It’s doubtful that any two journalists have the same underlying reasons for fighting the never-ending battle against propagandized news.
For me, it’s very simple. I write about the horrors of war, brutality, corruption, and deceit today so that my sons can hopefully read about the beauty of peace, love, art, and truth tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s headlines haven’t been made. Next week’s newspaper is completely blank; what ends up on the front page is up to you. If you’re waiting for somebody else to change the world, realize that the person that changes it may not change it for the better. Your voice and your actions matter more than those of any journalist, pundit, or commentator out there. We report the news you make. It’s up to you to change the news cycle, not us.
This article was originally published by The Anti-Media.