Tuesday, April 29, 2008


“Most Top Papers Post Declines” reads a headline in today’s Business Section. It’s just a two paragraph story in a side bar, but I think it is one of the most significant stories in today’s paper.

I’m just old enough to remember when newspapers were the primary source of national and international information – a time before television became the primary pap merchant.. The paper’s arrival each morning brought a window to a world that was otherwise far too distant to be noticed. Even we kids eagerly tore into the paper every day seeking words of wisdom from the likes of Fletcher Knebel and Donald Kaul. But those days are long gone. Shoot, Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” and Walt Kelly‘s “Pogo” brought us more biting analysis of the nature of politics than the editorial pages of today have to offer.

Today’s right or left wing diatribes don’t compare. Even Kaul has become more of a chronicler, albeit with a biting edge, than an analyst. Today’s columnists seem to me more inclined to foist (No, I don’t mean hoist. Think about it!) one or the other’s party line up the pole and ask us to salute than they are to question the veracity or value of those positions.

Today’s newspapers in general do not indulge in deep investigative reporting. The primary cause of this is that the number of significant owners has dropped from about 150 to five or six, and the tendency is for them to be supportive of one political party or the other and to follow the party line of that party rather than question its motives.

Newspapers have always been considered either leaning left or right, but today they are little more than mouthpieces for one or the other. Time was when mainstream newspapers saw it as their moral duty to investigate and report the facts behind the headlines, but today it seems as if their duty is seen to be maintaining civic calm by not looking very deeply into anything behind the scenes and spending most of their time asking why Britney is in the asylum again.

The only two papers the article says are holding their own are the Wall Street Journal and Today. It stands to reason.

After all, the journal is the primary source of the economic news that keeps our financial engine chugging. It has always been seen as right leaning, but now that it is under the control of Rupert Murdoch, may become known as just another propaganda peddling lightweight like FOX news. (Though I hope not.)

Today remains a best seller because it has sewn up the hotel market and is read by every business traveler too busy to bother with depth.

Americans by and large seem willing to accept opinion as fact, and newspapers by and large seem willing to print pap instead of investigating the motivations behind the headlines. We have seen the kind of rewards investigative reporting brings even here in Springfield when we watched Tony Messenger leave town after having forced the issue on the governor’s email mess. Whether or not it fits with the official line, Messenger had to leave because he became persona non grata for being the kind of person newspapers all over the country have come to fear – an investigative reporter.

Newspapers used to exist not only to bring us the news, but to rock the boat. Now the few surviving journalists must keep a low profile or be thrown overboard. Even when a story emerges that points out a flaw in the system – like the recent NY Times article on the high level authorization of torture – there doesn’t seem to be enough follow-up to force a change. It is a sad state of affairs and has a lot to do with why our nation is in an equally sad state from top to bottom.

Journalism has abdicated its responsibilities, and we all pay the price for it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls - http://www.myspace.com/paralegal_eagle

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