Early Friday morning, dozens of journalists swarmed the apartment of San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Once inside, they initiated a live broadcast of reporters rooting through various documents and personal belongings — everything from children’s toys and pictures to driver’s licenses and social security cards. Those last items were broadcast specifically by MSNBC. CNN and FOX News also broadcasted from inside the apartment, but they refrained from showing any documents.

The reaction online was swift and merciless, and even the anchors in the studio gave flak to the reporters on the scene. NPR described CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as “visibly uncomfortable,” while fellow anchor Wolf Blitzer admitted he had never seen anything like it. Even so, the newsrooms responsible for the intrusion were more proud than anything else.

In its apology letter, MSNBC was sure to mention that its reporters were the first to broadcast the scene. Even CNN, who had at least enough foresight to not show pictures or documents on air, touted their so-called restraint while ignoring the more general breach of privacy.

There is no justifying the fact that this was an incontrovertible invasion of privacy. The reporters on the scene and the stations that they work for should be ashamed of themselves. Some of the top news outlets in the nation violated the family’s right to privacy, and in doing so they have only sullied the name of an already wounded journalism industry. With Republican candidates bashing the mainstream media left and right, the industry can’t afford to play with the public’s trust like this.

While there were technically no laws broken, the public rightfully believes that there was an ethical barrier broken. The news media serves an incredibly important function in society. They exist, not for their entertainment value, but to educate the public and help them make informed voting decisions in addition to calling out people and institutions of power who seek to do wrong and mislead the public. It is imperative that the media maintain a high standard of journalistic integrity in order to properly serve their function. With the industry’s current image problem, stemming from a deeper ethics problem, there is no room for an ethical breach of this magnitude.

According to a Gallup poll from September, trust in the mass media is at a historic low and has been on a steady decline since 1998. So why is it that members of the mass media just can’t seem to get it together? The media outlets responsible were not amateurs, they were well-established professional entities. With that being the case, it’s even more damaging because they reach public is on a much larger scale.

Everyone is prone to making mistakes, no matter how small or large the mistake may be. The issue here is that this clearly wasn’t a mistake. When we use the word “transgression,” we really mean it. These outlets crossed the line.

But at the same time, as a consumer of the news, you can’t let the bad eggs color your perception of the industry. These cable companies are repeat offenders, and your perception of these repeat offenders should adjust accordingly, but don’t abandon the news.

News is still important, and just because trust may have been lost with a few outlets it does not mean that all media content is sensationalist, koala-fodder. Rather, as a consumer or producer of news, being cautious of news sources should be of the utmost importance when considering news in general.

There are still outlets and professionals out there who give a shit about the content they produce and the people they produce it for. There are still professionals in this field that know how to determine what’s relevant and provide a well thought out, filtered product to readers and viewers alike. Don’t fall into the trap of distrusting all media outright. The public cannot afford to discredit all media sources because media has become a staple of our culture and ultimately mass communication across the globe.

Be cautious, be assertive and most of all, be skeptical of the information that you are consuming or producing. The media has a job to do, and that is to inform the public in a professional and timely manner. Call out those who don’t do their job, but don’t lose faith. For the sake of all that is fried golden and dipped in ice cream keep your journalists under a magnifying glass.

The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at tbynum@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.    

The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at tbynum@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.