Sooner or later, DemWit gets back to the state of journalism in this country, and it is with deep regret that I report America’s “Fourth Estate” is in critical condition.
Straight news, hard news, investigative reporting continue to be supplanted by opinion and by tabloid-journalism appeal to basest instincts and prurient interests.
Fewer and fewer reporters are in the field, actually engaged in fact-gathering, resulting in higher profits for media conglomerates.
Cable news and network news have become … well, if you watch them, I don’t have to explain how they have devolved into nothingness. Instead of digging up facts and reporting a story, anchors turn to guest pundits to shovel up their "version" of a story.
Local newscasts are straight off the police register – murder and mayhem – with few investigations into local government and plenty of canned material from the corporate level. Describing local news, my friend, journalist Bill Sumrall is dead on, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
On a personal level, I weaned myself first from cable news – when Charter Communications dropped C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 from its expanded basic lineup. A few weeks back, I abandoned network news and the dregs of basic cable and turned solely to the Internet for news.
What I’m finding on U.S. news sources online are the same inadequate offerings. From cnn.com’s “Laterst News” headlines to the front page of the venerable New York Times, there are slim pickings.
I am suffering from a news dearth. This nation is suffering from a news dearth.
No revelation here. When this nation was marching toward an invasion of Iraq, those seeking less subjective coverage turned to foreign news sources.
A few weeks back I read once more James A. Michener’s “Centennial.” One of the historical novel's major characters had been appointed to chair a statewide effort to improve the environment – in conjunction with the celebration of Colorado’s centennial and the nation’s bicentennial.
He tunes in to his car radio for news at noon, hoping to hear an announcement about this statewide effort:
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Well, folks, it’s high noon, and the train is chugging in from Poison Snake, and Sheriff Gary Cooper is a-waitin’ at the station.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: It’s time for the news, all the news, the straight news delivered without fear or favor. The news you want when you want it.
FEMAILE QUARTET SINGING IN CLOSE HARMONY: From North, from South, From East and West, we bring it first, we bring it best
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Yes, sirree, like the girls just said we bring it best. Remember, you heard it first on Western Burst.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTETS, BLENDING: The news, the news, the news, here comes the news.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: But, first a brief message which is sure to be of interest.
HERE FOLLOW TWO MINUTES OF SINGING COMMERCIALS.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER (breathlessly): West Berlin, Germany. This morning Chancellor Willy Brandt announced a radical shift in his cabinet.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER (gravely): Oakland, California. At a special press conference called hurriedly this morning, the management of the Oakland Raiders announced that Choo Choo Chamberlain would, I repeat, would be able to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTEST, BLENDING: No matter when the stories burst, you hear it here, you hear it first.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Stay tuned for all the news; the news in depth; the news behind the news.
MALE AND FEMALE QUARTETS, BLENDING: All the news, the news you need, yes indeed, yes indeed.
FIRST MALE ANNOUNCER: Next complete news coverage one hour from now.
SECOND MALE ANNOUNCER: Unless, of course, there is some fast breaking news development anywhere in the world. If there is, you know we break in right away, regardless of the program, because Western Burst is always first. All the news, the news in depth.
This newscast would be amusing if it weren’t so recognizable.
It is good news then that the non-profit Center for Public Integrity will be teaming up with the Associated Press to deliver “authoritative, dynamic investigative reports that hold government and corporate power accountable.”
Read the Center for Public Integrity’s “Mission Statement.”