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Why Media Matters

In a world where practically all information has become so thoroughly mediated, it is difficult for media companies to fully comprehend their own role in the narrative arc that develops in all big stories now, especially the current rebellion in Iran.

This is partially because most of us-- whether reporters, editors, cameramen, sound experts, advertising salespeople, marketing execs, web editors, designers, or interns â€" are just trying to do our jobs. We are not trying to change the world or transform the human condition.

But the reality of working in media is that we share custody over the collective attempt by human beings globally to change the world and transform the human condition, and we forget that at our peril.

None of us can escape this by hiding behind our titles, or our place on the company org chart, or the roles we have been assigned to play by whomever happens to be paying our paycheck at the moment.

We are part of the story, whether we wish to be or not.

Over the past week, here at Bnet, I have been trying to assess what is going on in Iran, both in my role here, but also as someone who knows quite a bit about the country, its culture, history and language, and who cares about its people a lot. Forty years ago, when I first landed in Tehran as a young, idealistic Peace Corps Volunteer headed for neighboring Afghanistan, I had the first of many interactions with a people I've come to respect as much as any on earth.

Over the past ten days, as a journalist, I also have been acutely sensitive to the developing narrative arc that will ultimately determine the global perception of the outcome of the events inside Iran, as opposed to the reality, whatever that proves to be.

In that context, I want to share with you one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made as a Bnet blogger. It happened last Saturday as I was choosing which among a series of Tweets to insert into my post, "Business Lessons from Twitter's Role in Iran." The first link I chose was an awful video of a young woman being shot to death. It could have been a fake, but my instincts as a journalist with 40 years' experience told me it was not.

This time, as it turns out, I was right. Since then, this tragic murder victim has become the face of the revolution occurring in Iran. But all I did on Saturday was what every journalist tries to do, and that is to get the story right.

In the end, this is what working inside the media industry is all about. You can't make money over the long run, let alone look at yourself in the mirror, by being wrong about the things that matter. You have to try your best to be accurate, regardless of whether the story confirms your own biases or beliefs or not.

I feared providing a graphic link to a horrible event might be the wrong thing to do. I agonized over it. But I did it. Many other journalists all over the world soon made the same agonizing decision.

We were simply doing our job.


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