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Stuff Happens: How Ethical Journalism is Dying in America

Often times during campaigns, presidential candidates will say stupid things.  The upcoming 2016 contenders prove no different, from Mike Huckabee’s claim that the military’s purpose is to “kill people and break things,” to Donald Trump’s argument that Megyn Kelly isn’t actually a good journalist, but instead is just aggressive because she has “blood coming out of her wherever.”  Although presidential candidates often have noticeable blunders, not absolutely everything they say is brash, unforgiving, and unintelligent.

The media seems to misunderstand this.

Jeb Bush has already become infamous in the left’s eyes for his use of the term “anchor babies.”  Whether it’s derogatory and offensive is a debate still unfinished, yet many agree Bush (and other candidates) could be a little more polite in his word choice.  Most recently, Bush is under attack for seemingly flippantly dismissing the recent tragedy in Oregon as an unfortunate yet permissible occurrence, saying “stuff happens.”  Most media sources have covered this ostensible blunder within just hours of it being said: Mother Jones (surprise!), The Daily Beast, MSNBC, and essentially any other news source you could possibly imagine.  Nearly all media outlets will show the same clipping:

I had this challenge as governor—because we had—look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.

Taken out of context, as with every other statement made regarding a tragedy, Jeb’s statements seem out of place, disrespectful, and ultimately unpresidential.  Thus, it’s easy for media sources like the ones above to take advantage of clippings, sound bites, and out of context statements to appeal to our drama-obsessed society with headlines that seem too insensitive to be spoken by a presidential candidate.  That’s because, simply put, they are.  Jeb Bush did not flippantly dismiss the Oregon massacre as a “thing” that “happened,” he acknowledged crises and their solutions:

Jeb Bush Full Quote

The left’s outrage over such a facetious comment would be relatively justified if Bush had uttered the word “gun” even once in the last 75 words of his statement.  Maybe the media doesn’t know how to read more than a simple headline-worthy sentence, but it is abundantly clear that Bush was no longer referring to the Oregon tragedy and was instead talking about how the government should (or more so shouldn’t) handle problems in general.  Stuff does happen, there is always a crisis, and the impulse to always have government intrusion is in fact misguided.  Thus, Bush was not insensitive in his statement, he was correct.

Journalism, or at least ethical and honest journalism, is dying because the media has gone from those who report the news to those who report what will receive the most feedback.  Popularity and profits are the key drivers in American media, not people.  We live in an overly sensationalized society that values what is worthy of shock more than we do what is truthful and ethical. Until recently, “clickbait” was a term only used when describing BuzzFeed and Upworthy.  Now, even the most credible news organizations are guilty of taking advantage of American sensationalists on the internet in order to increase traffic to their respective sites.  This lack of reporting and abundance of deception could possibly explain why American’s trust in media is at an all-time low:

Trust in Media


As Ron Burgundy, perhaps the only true journalist we can trust in modern day America, once said, “Real news is supposed to let people know what the powerful are up to, so that that power doesn’t become corrupt.  But what happens when those powerful people own the news?”  The answer is exactly what we see today.  The owners of the media now are those who desire popularity more than they do probity, and the authors are those who crave fame rather than fairness.

Perhaps the media will continue to over-sensationalize statements taken out of context, and perhaps America will continue to believe them.  However, if America ever starts to recognize the deceit many of their favorite news sources employ, at least the media will have an easy justification for their dishonesty: stuff happens.

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