Staff Editorial: For the love or the money?

Mason Schweizer, Opinion Editor

Last weekend, members of our staff boarded one of the school’s trusty Dodge mini-vans and shuttled down to Seward, Neb., for the Nebraska Collegiate Media Association Golden Leaf Awards.

Our kickass staff did great in our own right—hauling in 21 awards of varying degrees, including a second-place certificate for the overall category, “Overall Excellence.”

But we left feeling shortchanged. Wanting more. Deserving more. Sure, awards handed out via scoring from judges we most likely will never meet don’t exactly rank high on our totem pole of journalistic priorities, but the recognition is appreciated, especially when it’s deserved.

It’s ironic that in a generation of participation trophies, integrity is being sacrificed for ratings, clicks and viewers. Network news is a great example of this, moving from traditional news coverage to panels of multiple talking-heads, all desperate to shout the loudest. Sportswriters have evolved from reporting on games and profiling the people who make them great into shoveling down our throats takes so hot that just a quick taste will leave your pallet scornfully scorched.

Why has this happened? Part of it is the decay of print journalism and news broadcasts, both thanks to the continued emergence of technology. Why would someone who can check the headlines during a two minute Twitter scroll want to spend 30 minutes watching those headlines? Or reading the details? Boring.

The competition for elite media positions increases with the closing of every paper and the elimination of every news broadcast. How are those voids filled? With concentration on the few stories that circulate in the 24-hour news cycle. Everyone has to take a stance and call people on the other side of the line idiots. It apparently makes for great TV. And a great read.

With those viewers and clicks come advertisements. And with those advertisements comes that almighty ad revenue. If a media personality can bring those dollars in for their company, then that fiscal reward goes to them. And that’s how we get a guy like Stephen A. Smith sitting on ESPN shouting nonsense and raking in a few million dollars a year for it. Smith used to uphold a phenomenal reputation as a writer, but as the checks got bigger, the takes got hotter.

So what makes someone in our field—or any field—successful? Is it the quality of the work? The positive impact they make on the people they serve? Or is it about that big number next to the dollar sign?

Proponents of either side of the debate might not agree about much in his situation, and that’s OK. Ideally, journalists would be able to be on both sides, and they sometimes are—it’s just not very common.

One thing we can all agree on, though, is to not take the Bill O’Reilly route. Or you’ll be left with no integrity and no advertising revenue.

Mason Schweizer for The Wayne Stater