Sometimes It Matters 

Journalism gets a bad rap, but it's also significant

The announcement of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners on April 18 kicked off the awards season for journalists across the country. So it's with no small irony that amid this yearly round of back-patting comes two alarming reports on the state of our industry.

First, on April 13, unveiled its annual Top 10 list of worst jobs in the United States. Out of 200 rankings, newspaper reporter came in dead last—and not for the first time. This is the third year in a row that ink-stained wretch bottomed out the list. (Broadcaster was separated from reporter by logger.)

The second bit of bad news for the news business came on April 18 from the Associated Press, which, on the same day, earned a Pulitzer for public service reporting.

According to a study from the Media Insight Project, AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and American Press Institute, only 6 percent of Americans say they "have a lot of confidence in the media," rivaling the United States Congress for disrespectability. Ouch.

I'm not going to go into how much of this derision is fair—I can think offhand of numerous incidents when it was certainly earned by everyone from national television networks to hometown newspapers—but I will point out there is a middle ground between Pulitzer glory and error-prone/clickbait/fluff shame.

Once in awhile, reporting actually helps make a difference.

Case in point: so-called Right to Try legislation, which provides greater access to medication for those suffering from terminal illnesses.

In February, Boise Weekly News Editor George Prentice reported on the case of John Knudsen, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) in 2010. He had lobbied lawmakers for the "right to try" drugs not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but his pleas had gone unanswered—that is, until BW started reporting on it. Championed by Boise Democratic Rep. Melissa Wintrow, the bill was signed into law in March. Prentice sat with Knudsen as he was given the pen used to sign the law. Find Prentice's report on Page 7.

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