Whither Journalism

My dad was a film chemist and a good one but his original ambition was to be a journalist. One of the first things I remember him teaching me was how to fold The New York Times. We spent many pleasurable hours watching the PBS Newshour  and Tony Brown’s Journal. I loved Seymour Hersh, religiously read the news reports in Ebony and was peripherally involved with my high school newspaper.

Today I’m a dedicated viewer of BBC News Al Jazeera English.  I still read the Times and lament the demise of Emerge, a black monthly news magazine.

Journalism is essential – especially in covering local news.  The federal government is a huge economic player and business. It will always be covered. It’s the scandals at the local and state levels that have a greater chance of going unchecked for long periods of time. The city of Bell, anyone?

What about this report from California Watch: http://californiawatch.org/earthquakes? Ecosoulintellectual notes: “This weekend, California Watch dropped a series of stories revealing the State has collected tens of billions of dollars to fix schools to be prepared for earthquakes, and have not delivered.” This information can be distributed by bloggers but bloggers do not have usually have the training or resources to do real investigative reporting.

How will journalists be paid? Who will protect them? (http://www.journalistsatrisk.org/) Who will hold them accountable?

Two things prompted this post. First, Meredith Viera’s “interview” of Donald Trump.  A top journalist was completely routed by a boor and a bully. Did Viera or her team research on the discrepancies regarding his net worth? Trump’s shifting allegiances between various parties and political positions? Why didn’t she challenge his claims about President Obama, especially the birther’s claims which have been thoroughly debunked by government officials and other, real journalists.

The second was Katie Couric’s expected announcement that she will step down from anchoring CBS’s evening news.

Couric stated that she will pursue ” a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling.”

With all due respect, what’s needed is less butt kissing and more reporting. Fewer people read newspapers and watch news programs because there isn’t enough actual news in or on them. I shouldn’t have had to Google a Knight Ridder paper or wait for Inside Job (2008) to understand the economic melt down.

Where’s the reporting on Osama Bin Laden? Escalating credit levels? The real aftermath in Japan? The disappearing middle class? The continuing onslaught of organized labor in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio?

Instead this is what we get:

Chaos.

This phase is characterized by smug certainty. While troublesome, the disaster in Japan does not begin to reach the scale of Chernobyl.

A smidgen of honesty and reality.

for a very short amount of time. C.f., First two days after Hurricane Katrina

Chron Titles, i.e. Storytelling

America at War

America at a crossroads

Disappearance.

If the story doesn’t wrap up quickly and prettily, it is replaced by celebrity news or the next disaster.

My advice

Stop borrowing to buy papers and news outlets.  It will force layoffs and  bankruptcy.

Restock news bureaus around the world.

Stop rewriting and releasing government, corporate and nonprofit press releases.

Real journalism anyone?

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About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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