The pioneering American journalist John Chancellor once said, “The function of good journalism is to take information and add value to it.”
It’s not one of those self-righteous journalism quotes that presents the job as the last remaining thing standing between civilization and the Visigoths (although sometimes it actually is). It’s a basic principle, that having the privilege of a platform means you should use it for good.
There’s another axiom of journalism, that requires us to hold the powerful accountable, to ask uncomfortable questions of the comfortable.
When you’re neither adding value nor holding the powerful accountable, it’s hard to see what part of journalism you’re actually doing.
Instead, one might describe this as merely trolling, which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as, “someone who leaves an intentionally annoying or offensive message on the internet, in order to upset someone or to get attention or cause trouble.”
So it’s hard to see what value people like Megyn Kelly, an influential, smart and accomplished journalist, despite her well-known and well-earned controversies, are adding when they use their platform to attack a struggling 23-year-old female tennis player for the sin of appearing on the cover of a magazine.
After Naomi Osaka, one of the best tennis players in the world, withdrew from a major tournament and revealed she was battling some mental health issues, many of her fellow athletes, sports reporters and sponsors came out in full support, commending her on what they believed was a courageous admission.
At a time when mental health is slowly but surely being de-stigmatized, and importantly in communities of color, Osaka’s announcement was an impactful one that could show others that it’s OK to not be OK.
As someone who struggled with mental health and suicidal thoughts as a young girl, I can personally attest to the fact that these stories matter in reassuring someone else that it’s not weakness to seek help or treatment.
Anyone who’s looked even superficially at the issue of mental health knows depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts do not care about your wealth, status or success. Osaka’s financial comfort does not make her a powerful person against her demons.
So attacking her credibility and integrity isn’t some noble version of holding the powerful accountable. It’s just cruel and totally unnecessary.