Or, hack journalism at its finest
Last week, an article came out in the New York Post with the headline: “NYC medic helped ‘make ends meet’ with racy OnlyFans side gig.” This was, in short, a chickenshit puritan’s mid-life sexual frustrations being condensed into a half-baked hit-piece on an essential worker struggling to make ends meet. I would have thought that even the most craven & unscrupulous smut-peddler would balk at publishing that sort of filth, but it seems I was wrong. Fortunately, this saga has hilariously backfired; the paramedic in question received an outpouring of support, and has not been fired at the time of writing. However, this situation raises a few questions about ethical journalism for me.
Learning journalism, I was lucky to have an unorthodox professor; he had had a long career in various forms of journalism, public relations, & academic work. Rough around the edges, with an air like a former Hell’s Angel, he impressed upon me & my student colleagues that principles should be inviolate. Between snitching & jail, you go to jail, you never publish a death before the family’s notified, and, crucially, always, always ask yourself: do people really need to read this story? In an ideal world, a journalist’s job is to inform the public; ensure that they are aware of their community, and that whatever power wants to hide gets dragged into the light. Anything which doesn’t do either of those should get trashed. Now, this might mean an unglamorous career covering Junior League Hockey; that’s fine- your article on the neighbourhood kids’ victory will fill their parents’ hearts with pride, and that’s renown enough.
Now, tell me, what was gained from the drivel published in the NY Post? To mind, the core of this story is this: strapped for cash, paramedic resorts to sex work to suplement their income. There is a story here which the public should hear; how is it that, in the middle of a pandemic, in the richest country in history, a healthcare worker cannot meet their basic needs? How is it that they need to resort to sex work in order to survive? Sex work is fine and dandy with me(if you think it isn’t, check your browser history, then shut up), if intentional; this paramedic’s interviews tell me that, had they been paid properly, sex work wasn’t part of the plan. An article detailing the difficulties faced by the workers we currently need most would have been a fine piece of journalism; include some details on policy failures, on the inadequacies of American Healthcare, and you’ve got a solid article. Instead, we got some hack’s pent-up sexual inadequacacies aimed squarely at destroying the livelihood of the type of person that’ll save his life after a 6th stroke; great job, New York Post.