Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tuned into this panel discussion of "journalists" whining about why we can't have more public money devoted to employing them. The subtitle is "The collapse of journalism and what can be done to fix it." It was hosted by the New America Foundation, but it sounds more like the Old U.S.S.R. model of journalism. Craig Aaron states frankly that he doesn't believe in objectivity. Others bemoan the fact that public broadcasting isn't getting more federal funding. They don't seem to even see the threat this has to their own freedom of expression. I haven't heard them mention Juan Williams, anyway.

One panelist Nikki Usher has studied the ways the public has participated in reporting in the past, but he neglects to point out that much of the decline is due to the disdain highly educated "journalists" hold for the common man, even when that man or woman knows more about his/her own field that they do. The audience seems to be largely composed of their fellow "journalists." The first questioner badmouths bloggers in a manner that illustrates my point. The only time I hear the term "reporter" was in the title of the book mentioned in the title . . . Oops, there, someone just said it would be a good idea for the government to pay foreign correspondents.

When they drop the pretentious title of "journalist" and go back to the title of reporter, and the basic idea of finding out facts and reporting them without one's own political preferences, to the extent that is possible, they'll be closer to reviving their vocation. The solution is not to become more political and have more public funding. There is a attitude that all of them are entitled to large incomes, even if it means federal subsidies. One panelist whined that the government spent nearly a trillion dollars on economic stimulus but gave nothing to hire "journalists."

The way I see it, information is a good subject to the forces of the market like most other goods, and people demand accurate information and have been willing to pay more for it. What these panelists don't seem to get is that they are not elected to campaign for the left or right, and that they can only improve their lot by doing more than drinking or lunching with sources to gather leaks and waiting around in corridors to gather comments from politicians. Doing that is fine, but when they quote "critics," we're entitled to know who those critics are and they'd better not be the reporters themselves.

People aren't the great unshorn out here waiting to be lead to water. They can sense when things don't make sense or when they're being fed opinion. When Obama tells us the economy is recovering nicely and that we only need more stimulus, we're entitled to test that with common sense and accurate information. There's been a lot of lily de-gilding of statistics going on, when figures are announced and then a month or two later revised. We're more aware now of stories that the New York Times and hence hardly any other new outlets are covering. And the united criticism of Fox News from the rest of the media and many government officials conflicts with what they've always told us about the freedom of the press. When I hear such constant, unsubstantiated criticism, including recommendations to limit what a news outlet can broadcast, I smell a rat, and the odor isn't coming from Fox News.


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