Hawkeye knows the importance of being accurate. If an archer fails to account for all factors and variables, they can miss their target, and someone could get hurt. And you know what? This applies to journalists, too.
Moviepilot and many other sites and publications took aim at Jeremy Renner, for his comments indicating that he wouldn't actively campaign for equality in Hollywood pay. Many called him out, stating that his lack of active support was just as bad (or worse) than saying nothing, and even worse, many published it with phrasing in both the articles and titles that suggest he didn't support it at all.
Renner has now been forced to clarify his statements. And yet, no one has acknowledged OUR part in forcing him into a corner. By "our", I mean the journalistic community. By failing to acknowledge or consider several factors, we've once again put Jeremy in the spotlight. Now, his previous comments regarding Black Widow definitely deserved scrutiny, but let's take a look at what he actually said this time.
"That's not my job...I don't know contracts and money and all that sort of stuff."
"I'm a performer and I know human behavior. When it comes to that sort of stuff I let other people deal with that...I do what I'm good at, that's what I focus on."
He also went on to add that he fully supports equal pay, but he's focused on doing what he does best - acting - and letting people who understand the intricacies of the issue handle it.
That's perfectly understandable, but many have suggested that the fact that he's not taking a stand is as bad, or worse, then doing nothing at all.
Is that really our place? Many people debate what exactly Moviepilot creators are-are we journalists, or bloggers, or what?
Here's the thing. Regardless of what we call ourselves, we have thousands, even millions, of potential readers. It doesn't matter what we want to be at this point, because we are perceived as a journalistic publication. We have to hold ourselves to a standard that does our readers, and ourselves, justice.
Equal pay is an important issue, yes, but it is not the only issue facing Renner. Just a couple weeks ago, we reported on Renner's ex-wife's accusations against him of negligence and apathy for their child's safety. His ability to be a part of his daughter's life is in jeopardy. To any parent, this would hold far more weight than a social justice cause, no matter how grand.
We have the ability to shape the thoughts and opinions of anyone who comes across our articles. It is not fair to Renner, or anyone else in similar situations, to take their remarks and not give them appropriate context. And that context does include other events in their life, especially personally significant ones.
On that same note, our titles and headlines are the first things people see. We've all been taught that, whether through MoviepilotU, classes, or experience as writers. That's why it's extremely damaging when a title contains something that either says or suggests something that is untrue.
We wrote that he "doesn't care". Now, take that as you will, different people will have different reactions. But it is undeniable that him saying "I don't care" and him saying that Lawrence and Cooper are right, but his focus lies elsewhere, carry vastly different meanings. Though the title in-article is different, the one on Facebook, the one shown to the world, implies Renner is apathetic or even slightly against the idea. This is not at all fair to Renner, or to our readers.
I'm all for catchy titles, roping the reader in. Titles that evoke emotion do that well. But titles that evoke that emotion by misleading readers, especially where it directly concerns a person, is wrong. We, as writers, bloggers, journalists, whatever you want to call us, need to respect people no matter what our personal opinions of them are.
Our readers care, too. The comments on the article show it. Trust in the media is on a decline, and misrepresentation is one of the biggest causes. We need to focus on three things, especially when formulating opinion articles.
Complexity-Do we cover all the angles? Take into account all contributing factors, and use a variety of sources and angles to determine the truth?
- Authenticity-Is the story honest? Did we avoid twisting words or manipulating statements? Did we use all relevant information and statements?
Context-Did we provide proper detail? What could have affected what was said? Did we frame the story with relevant information? Did we omit or include anything that would unnecessarily shift the opinions of our readers?
We, as a media organization, are responsible for providing accurate stories for our readers. Even in editorials and opinion-based articles, it's necessary to present all the facts and context needed for the reader to make their own decision. Opinions are opinions, everyone's is different. But we cannot mislead readers, no matter what. We are better than that.
I do not intend to offend the author, or the writer of the title. It's easy to get caught up in trying to get reads, or the emotion of what some may view as a disappointing comment. I've done it before, and I've had to retract what I've said. But there is one key thing we must always remember-it's not about us. The articles are for the readers, and provide information on a subject. We are the intermediaries trying to provide the most accurate account possible, to respect both our readers and those we write about. When we miss the mark, we hurt both groups.
It's not about us.