In the United States of America we are privileged enough to have the Right to Freedom of the Press. However, with the right to Freedom of the Press comes the responsibility to report the facts and all that we know to be true. The truthfulness of a Journalist and the sacrifices or risky circumstances that he/she are willing to encounter to report the facts to the public determine their Journalistic Integrity. Unfortunately, as I have recently learned, not all news publications are as interested in the truth as they are in the intentions of those who fund the publication. When a news publication becomes solely interested in money and the people who spend the money, it completely loses its purpose: to inform the public.
I challenged the Journalistic Integrity of a man who is Chief Director and Publisher of two minority news publications in Memphis, TN, and lost my job. I worked for almost 3 months for a company that is responsible for writing, publishing, and distributing two local minority papers: La Prensa Latina(a weekly bi-lingual Hispanic newspaper) & The Memphian(a weekly contemporary African American newspaper). I was in sales, but because of my Literature studies back round as well as my bi-lingual Spanish skills, I was given a Press pass and permission to write an article a week, as well as help translate headlines for editorial. Though, it was also very common during our weekly meetings for our Chief Director, as well as our Manager of Sales to remind all of us that we were all “News Hounds” and should stay with eyes and ears in the community. At first, I thought that these were people that really cared about the information that was being distributed to the public. After time, however, I discovered several problems with the papers and the editorial staff that I found impossible to be quiet about. . .
Problem # 1: The Memphian was not represented in the office by editorial African American staff. The editors of a supposed African American newspaper consisted of two Latinas and one French woman. Racial slurs and comments were constantly thrown around by these editors, who felt stressed and pressed to provide material for this paper as well as their other paper (La Prensa Latina). There was only one part time African American sales representative who was hardly ever present, and was rumored to have argued with the Sales Manager and may not return after a scheduled medical leave. I brought this problem up on several occasions because I felt wrong selling advertisements to companies for an African American paper that was not what it said it was. My complaints were ignored.
Problem# 2: The editorial staff for La Prensa Latina was also the reporting staff. The editors were also pressed with the burden to cover stories. However, most of the work that was done by this staff was downloading and translating new stories from the internet, because they didn’t have the time, drive, or connections to go out and cover local news. There was more pointing and clicking than there was going to a scene and interviewing. The interviews and news stories that were covered were usually covered because an advertising client had invited or suggested the event to the editorial staff. I spoke up about this problem and was told to email any events I knew about to the editorial staff, but advertisement sales were priority # 1 because without the money there would be no paper.
Problem# 3: The circulation numbers of both papers. The sales team was told to tell clients a certain number of papers were being distributed to certain locations, but the numbers never added up and the papers hardly ever made their way to all of the locations. I investigated and inquired on several occasions about this problem and found that only 1 man was given the burden of picking up the papers from the printers and distributing all of them from 1 van.
Problem# 4: The Manager of Sales was given Seniority and Editorial power over the Chief Editor. The problem here is obvious: Money managing Information. I never got a chance to protest this problem.
I challenged the Sales Manager, Chief Editor, and Chief Director with all of these problems because when I was first hired they had given me the illusion that they wanted my feed back to make the publications better. I was wrong to think that they actually cared. On April 19th 2007, I requested and was granted permission to attend a court arraignment of a Security Officer that I had once worked with. One of the other editors was going to attend because she was acquainted with the District Attorney and thought the case was interesting. I was going to get exclusive interviews with the defendant’s family, lawyer, and any witnesses present, but to also see the defendant ( having not seen or heard from him in a long time) to see if I could get an exclusive interview. To make a long story short, the D.A. got pissed because he wanted the reporters from La Prensa Latina to only cover and be in contact with him. That’s just not right. The Press should always get all sides of a story, especially in a justice system that claims that all are innocent until proven guilty. The D.A. made a few calls to his other friends in the paper: the Sales Manger and Chief Director, and next thing I knew, my Manager was yelling at me through my cell phone, telling me to take off my Press badge (which I did) and insulting my judgment.
I later confronted my Sales Manager to let her know that I did not appreciate the unprofessional way in which she spoke to me. She only began to scream at me again. Before the day ended I sent an email to the Director and Publisher to hopefully have a conference about the way I was treated. But, to my dismay, the next day, the conference was really just the Director yelling at me about how I may have ruined a relationship that his business had with the D.A. by using poor judgment. I reminded him of a Journalists duty to report all facts and side in a story. I reminded him of my passionate interest in bettering the paper and of my Journalistic Integrity. His reply was heart breaking: “I don’t care if it’s the whole truth or a complete lie; I put what I want to in MY paper because it’s MY paper! I do what’s best for my business and you put my business in jeopardy so I’m terminating this relationship!” There it is folks; a news publication that isn’t interested in informing the people, it’s not even for the people . . . it’s a business. This greedy old man later assaulted me as I tried to clear my desk by grabbing my arm and shoving me, then continuously bumping me with his disgustingly fat belly as I tried to walk out of the office. I called the cops to file a report; however the only real witness to the event was too afraid to admit what he had seen to the police. The detective never called me back so that I could file charges . . . maybe it has something to do with the D.A.’s connection or money. The company never paid me my full salary or all of my commissions but I am doing all that I can to follow legal suit, considering I don’t have much money, and the Publisher of these papers likes to rub elbows with rich and powerful people. I challenged the Journalistic Integrity of a man and for this I lost my job as a sales rep and reporter.