Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to accurately inform the citizenry.
We have witnessed a profound decline in journalistic standards over the past three years.
But in referring to this decline, I am not referring to propaganda outlets and managed news like NewsCorp holdings, Fox News and right-wing radio. Managed news– like Rupert Mudoch’s Fox News– jeopardizes free and open societies by substituting fiction for facts, carefully filtered reports for truth, and cheerleading propaganda for real journalism.
No. The failure to accurately inform the public we are referring to here stems from those who profess to actually practice journalism – the mainstream media.
24 hour news creates ferocious competition among media organizations for audience share. This, coupled with the profit demand of their elite corporate ownership, has led to the decline. Why and how? The American press has moved toward sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion and away from traditional values of verification, proportion, relevance, depth, and quality of interpretation. The practice of investigation and reporting of events has been replaced by a “journalism of assertion” which ignores whether a claim is valid and encourages putting a claim – any claim, regardless if it has any validity — into the arena of public discussion for sensationalist ratings — and for profit — as quickly as possible.
And for the past few weeks, the American news media appears to relish providing front row tickets for the world’s best ongoing drama: the saga of the United States held hostage by Republicans heading off the cliff into the unfathomable economic abyss of a cataclysmic default. But no dreary reporting on cause and effect. Oh, of course not. C’mon. I mean, where’s the sizzle in that?
And no media reporting on the obvious dreary fact that conflating raising of the debt ceiling with a budget compromise is in itself a false choice. Conflating is, by the way, the practice of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one. Something that the press should never engage in, because it produces error and misunderstanding, a fusion of distinct subjects which obscures analysis of relationships which are emphasized by contrasts
No mention that the United States can still easily meet its debt obligations — and for God’s sake, don’t breathe a word that if the United States goes into default, it will not be because of the economics, but because of the stupid, insane Republican politics behind the issue.
No – the mainstream corporatist mainstream media is just busy amping up the ratings for the Debt Ceiling disaster movie unfolding.
In doing so, American journalism abandons its moral conscience as well as its journalistic ideals. If the present United States mainstream media had been active in Hitler’s Germany, it would now be busy sensationalizing the extermination of the Jews. You can see America’s news corporations and commentators doing it, can’t you? Getting eyewitness accounts, debating humane versus inhumane procedures for extermination, perhaps getting talking points from both sides – but no reporting as to whether the genocide of a people *should* be taking place.
And it is a type of genocide that America faces. The stance being taken by corporate profiteers and their representatives in Washington — opposing the closing of loopholes that benefit multinational corporations and the wealthy, and opposing the return of tax rates on the wealthy to the levels we had when our economy was thriving and our budget was balanced – and holding America hostage to a cataclysmic default unless drastic reductions are made to domestic programs, on our schools, on our infrastructure, on social security, Medicare, unemployment entitlements, on all the things that serve to give working people a chance at a dignified life — this is nothing less than an all out assault on the middle class and the working people of America.
Here’s the facts, Jack: The Republicans have taken America hostage. The GOP is holding a bullet to Americans’ heads and issuing ransom demands. And the mainstream media? They ignore the gun, the bullet, the perpetrator while hyping criticism and analysis of the hostage victim’s family haggling over the ransom demand.
It’s time for the vast majority of middle class Americans who will be devastated by a default to call in SWAT.
The media should call this what it is: the clearest decision about the future of the country we’ve had in some time–and a complete waste of time and energy better spent on finding a way out of our economic morass.
They can also report that we can just vote to raise the debt ceiling, which is what we’ve always done in the past. That’s old dreary news, to be sure, but it remains an important unalterable fact. Every reputable economist states this would make ultimate good sense in a faltering economy. Every reputable economist states that our most immediate need–as opposed to the long-term need for deficit reduction–is to find some way to goose the economy.
The fourth estate is charged with keeping an honest watch on activities of the other states and itself. These duties help democratic societies function properly, openly, and honestly. In keeping with this sacred trust, journalists can begin to report — for starters – on just who is actually holding the gun to America’s head. That’s an issue of fact and not opinion. Responsible journalists can also report and emphasize the grave long-term consequences that the GOP’s failure to increase the debt limit will create, not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers.
In other words, for all of us.
Or, the news-for-profit media can just continue on as they have — to amp up ratings, provoke controversy on unalterable facts, and just keep score on the GOP’s political game — who’s winning, who’s losing — while Republicans push this great nation off the cliff, devastating the United States’ economy for decades to come.
So we hold the media accountable: Where’s your conscience? Where’s your values? Where’s your soul?
To the mainstream media: Individually and collectively, you have a choice in this crisis. But make it wisely. Because every choice those of you who still call yourselves journalists make from here on out will have a far reaching end result.