I’d like to speak, for a second, about truth in the media.
As a seven-year-old, I loved reading the newspaper. I would look forward to eating my bowl of Frosted Flakes while rifling through the sports section and the funny pages. I would love every minute of it.
As a seventeen-year-old, I can’t understand how I could’ve ever been so naive.
I still look forward to reading the paper. Although the bowl is a little bigger, I still look forward to eating my Frosted Flakes. I try, however, to prevent the two from coinciding, lest I lose my appetite.
Until I signed on as an intern for a sports journalist this past year, I always thought that the media reported the news. Papers like “The Inquirer” or “The Daily Examiner” had always led me to believe that some news was sensationalism at best, but I still trusted journalists as a whole. Sure, the Post and the Daily News have several tabloid-esque stories, but I figured there were enough reputable papers around to counteract them
My first run-in with the truth changed my mind.
I was in the Knicks’ lockerroom, covering a home game versus the Washington Bullets. Several reporters were crowded around Larry Johnson, myself included. One reporter suddenly started asking questions that startled me.
“Larry- didn’t you say that you didn’t like the fans’ reactions tonight?”
“What about the Coach. Do you and he get along?”
“How come you never tell the media the truth?”
It was as if the writer was specifically trying to get Johnson to slip up and say something that he didn’t mean. The reporter badgered Johnson to the point where I almost interrupted him, a lockerroom sin too egregious to even think about. The writer continued and, after clear examination of facial expressions around the room, I was the only non-Knick that it bothered. Everyone kept about their business, as if this were commonplace. I had a feeling it was.
I wanted to dismiss it. I wanted to pretend it never happened. I wanted it to stop happening in front of me. I looked down at the floor only to catch a glimpse of the badger’s press pass. In big, bold letters, it read “New York Times.”
I picked up the Times the next day. Sure enough, there was a story written by the very bloodhound I spoke of earlier, complete with false innuendos, distorted and out of context quotes, and, worst of all, a statement from Johnson that he never said.
A hero was not shattered in Johnson; I respect him twice as much as I used to. I learned that professional athletes are forced to put up with accusations and criticisms based on little or no fact, and in turn have to smile and not speak out. That night, the fans didn’t turn on the Knicks; minus some first quarter boos, the fans supported their team relentlessly. The next morning’s New York Newsday read, “Fans boo uncontrollably as Knicks squeak by Bullets”. The Knicks won by more than seventeen.
I was able to say, “No. I was there. It didn’t happen that way.” Unfortunately, no one was listening.
I’m glad I read the story; it led me to be more focused than anything had before. My mind is now set: I’ll go into journalism not because I like it, not because I am told that I can write well. I will go into journalism to tell the truth.
And I’ll take the funny pages, a whatever-sized cereal bowl, and a heaping portion of Frosted Flakes with me. Anything less wouldn’t be honest.