Responsible – “to have control and authority over something or someone and the duty of taking care of it, him, or her” (Definition of “responsible” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
I have heard this word used almost all of my life. “That man is truly responsible.” “She is a responsible person.” “Those young people are not responsible.” When you think about it, the word really carries a bit of weight, maybe more than we realize or would like to think.
We trusted that the news media were responsible in their reporting of the 2016 US Presidential campaign during the past 11 months or so, and we hoped that the political aspirants were making campaign promises in a responsible manner as well. At the end of the campaign, when the election was held, we all realized that the media was not very responsible after all. We all listened to the mainstream media, on both sides of the issue, declaring who was correct and who was not, only to find out that they, the media, were not being totally responsible in their reporting.
What happened to the days when news reporters did just that - report the news? When did journalism shift to the place of trying to become the guiding light for society and its mores? Perhaps it began with the sitcom, “All In The Family,” (which ran from 1971 through 1979) where Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin presented society a mirror with which to view itself. No one can deny that they actually did change some of society’s values through the everyday lives of Archie Bunker and family.
It was in 1972 that we were introduced to yet another in your face event: the Watergate scandal. Watergate, according to Wikipedia, was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. in 1972, and President Richard Nixon's administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the U.S. Congress, the Nixon administration's resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis.
Gone are the days of Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite - reporters you could trust. It seems to me that news reporters today don’t look for the story to share with us; they try to manipulate the story and, thereby, direct us. In my opinion this is journalism at its worst. I don’t buy a paper or listen to the evening news in order to tweak my moral compass. These mediums are not responsible for that task.
There is another side to the word responsible, and it has to do with us, the receivers of information. All one has to do is follow Facebook, Twitter or a myriad of other social media networks for only a few minutes to find information from around the world. Social media is full of information, and much of it is false information. But do we let that small fact bother us? It doesn’t seem so. People are frightened by the most ridiculous reports – from failure to forward an e-mail, to not posting a certain story on their own wall. People gobble it up hook, line and sinker – true or false; it really doesn’t seem to make a difference. We don’t even let it bother us that the same report has been making the rounds for the past several years. We ingest it like fresh manna.
We must all take the word responsible to heart. Give us responsible reporting. Let us be responsible in our acceptance or rejection of what we hear. And let us be responsible in how and what we communicate to others.