Sara Soberaj’s article about reporting conventions discussed the phenomenon of authenticity, among other topics. One of the reasons that reporters do not cover social movements is a lack of authenticity on the activists’ part, at least in the ways they reach out to reporters. Activists rely on the tried and true PR tactics to disseminate information to journalists, via fact sheets, news releases and events, but reporters often do not respond to these efforts, largely because they lack a feeling of genuineness. Where social movements are concerned, reporters respond to authenticity, a quality that many PR tactics lack. However, ironically, social movements are arguably the most authentic in their commitment to social good — generally, activists are trying to create positive change in society, they just lack the ability to communicate that passion. Ironically, reporters do respond to politicians, arguably the most inauthentic players in the sociopolitical game.
The American public places value in something that by its nature cannot exist in the political world. Authenticity is a political conundrum — necessary to general favorable public opinion, it becomes a performance for the media, thereby rendering it inauthentic. Once a political candidate starts kissing babies for a photo-op, the very act becomes staged and ingenuine. The media is aware of the inauthenticity — yet, as Soberaj discusses, journalists continue covering political events out of necessity. The power dynamic between reporter and politician creates a double standard for authenticity in a media campaign run by a social movement v. politician. Media are willing to suspend concerns of inauthenticity in exchange for access, as long as politicians are able to convince the public of their authenticity. The performance of politics, particularly during an election campaign, plays into the public’s fetishization of authenticity — politicians know it, media knows it, much of the public knows it, and yet, we continue covering events of little to no significance in order to demonstrate that such-and-such a politician is “someone you would have a beer with.”
By its nature, politics cannot be authentic — seeking to appear authentic on-screen is actually inauthenticity — and media enables politicians to continue with the charade.