There were so many “moments” in touring the National Civil Right Museum in Memphis, Tennessee founded on the site where Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. The word “inspirational” is inadequate to describe those moments. They made you live and remember what is almost too painful – when people, actual people, were enslaved and bought and sold. One moment stands out, however.
It was the news coverage of the March on Washington led by Martin Luther King in which an estimated 200,000 people stood before King and heard the “I Have a Dream Speech,” perhaps the most extraordinary speech of all time.
The headline in the Washington Post screamed out “Mammoth Rally of 200,000 Jams Mall in Solemn, Orderly Plea for Equality.” In a sidebar explanation of the event, however, it was noted that the media failed utterly with this observation: “But the march did not transform America. The media missed the opportunity to generate a meaningful national conversation about racial discrimination. The story to them was how the people marched rather than “why” they marched.
Fast forwarding to 2016, media is once again questioning its coverage of the Trump phenomenon and those who followed him. We can only observe that the important pillar of American democracy has for quite some time been in crisis. Traditional print editions are going down; great veteran reporters being laid off. On-line versions find themselves at a loss on how to fund the important journalism that is foundational to our way of life and broadcast news is more about ratings than truth. Media is populated with people who just like the rest of us have their gifts and flaws. By definition, how they must stand above the fray in order to provide the coverage of what is happening down below. One reporter said to me in the midst of my reputation debacle: “You know, we in as journalists are taught to question everything.” Quite to the contrary, they don’t question nearly enough … even about their own motivations.