When I decided to take on journalism as my major, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of excitement that I would finally be able to work toward a craft that I felt passionate about. But there was a lingering sense of doubt concerning one particular aspect of professional reporting.
People hate journalists.
I know I don’t speak for everybody, but I think few can disagree that there has been in a noticeable shift public opinion against journalism. Terms like “fake news” have entered the common vocabulary, and if I had a dime for the number of times I heard somebody groan when I bring up a news station like CNN, I’d be sitting pretty.
And this isn’t saying that we should be giving these news sources the benefit of the doubt. Obvious biases in the media have soured the public’s expectations in a way that many may find hard to forgive. And this discontent extends far beyond politics. In the realm of entertainment, people treat professional reviews the same way they would treat a rabid animal.
There is this unified sense from the public that an opinion war is being raged. And you don’t need to look very far to find the casualties of this conflict. Rotten Tomatoes has the handy feature of splitting their reviews into two sections, professional and public. And the divide between these two groups has never been greater.
For example, “Rambo: Last Blood” got a critic score of 21% but a public score of 82%. The critics’ scores for “Joker” averaged 68%, but the scores from public viewers averaged 89%. As for “Ad Astra,” critics, 84%; public, 40%.
Division like this is nothing new. Action movies, horror, and comic inspired films have often earned a much higher level of respect from the public than the critics. This trend has only grown worse over the last few years, to the point where nobody can agree on anything.
As I said before, these arguments aren’t without reason. One common attitude that will likely be the death of modern reporters is self righteousness. Nobody likes to be told that what they like is wrong or that they’re not enjoying something the way they are supposed to.
For instance, look at the way those who thought negatively of films like “Black Panther,” “Ghostbusters,” and the new “Star Wars” films were treated. The media was quick to label these haters as racist or sexist bigots, when really many of them were discussing nothing to do with those derogatory claims. It’s these blatant insults that earn journalists the reputation of being smug, out of touch jerks that many people perceive them to be.
But that isn’t to say all the fault lies on the side of the professionals. Thanks to platforms that give everyone a voice, people think they are afforded a degree of legitimacy when they’re actually the digital equivalent of shouting their opinions on top of a box in the middle of Time Square. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean everybody else has to as well, and that rule extends to critics.
Because in reality, your opinion isn’t worth any more or any less than the thousands of others that litter internet forums. The reason that these professionals exist is because they have developed the skills required to properly articulate their thoughts while also bolstering their own expertise. It’s the same reason why someone takes the word of a professional sports caster before betting on a team rather than listen to some random Joe off the street.
Thankfully, I don’t think the reputation of a journalist has been strained beyond repair. In fact, I think these times can be a pretty good learning experience for all those involved. For critics, they need to learn it’s important that they work for the audience, not the other way around. Their job is to guide the public, not to shove their own personal beliefs and ideas into their face. (That’s what the opinion column is for). And for the people, it’s time to acknowledge the hard truth that you don’t know as much as you think you do.
You don’t have to agree with every review you read, but instead of immediately launching into a mad tirade, try to understand where their coming from.
You might even learn a thing or two.
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