In the movies that acted as my education the journalist were heroes, sleeves rolled up, typing with two fingers on a manual Royal typewriter. They smoked cigars, even the women reporters, they talked as they typed. People yelled, "hold the front page." These heroes ferreted out corruption, took down puppet mayors, defended the falsely accused and uncovered the truth that would ultimately serve this country better. "His Girl Friday " was a stand out for me. When the powerful Rosalind Russell hides the convicted murderer in the roll top desk (with help from Cary Grant), I saw a champion.
Fortunately like many young fantasies, this one did not crash and burn. At the end of the sixties, journalism and broadcast journalism stepped up to the plate. First Sixty Minutes premiered and it was clear this was no sissy television magazine. Three-to four segments per hour of uncovering truths--General Westmoreland withheld information that would have resulted in a different or differently timed approach into Vietnam, for instance. Appearing on Sixty Minutes was a risk...something would be unveiled. For a democracy, this was exciting journalism. This was followed by "The Selling of the Pentagon" (produced by CBS!) had Roger Mudd breaking down how the American public and their tax dollars had been bamboozled by the Pentagon powers.
Finally, the peak moment was Bernstein and Woodward and the Watergate Scandal. These reporters exposed the deception and criminal activity utilized by Richard Nixon and his posse to get him into the White House. There was evidence, there were witnesses and there was a trial. As good as HIlde (Rosalind Russell)
Fast forward to now: hard to talk about--i get the chills. Reporting and television news are deeply divided from information and evidence. They rest largely (except for some independent outlets: Salon, Huffington, Pacifica, etc ) on extreme personalities, on an engorgement of opinion based on facts manipulated, withheld, or just plain out of context and reinterpreted to satisfy the blood fest.
I can point to Glen Beck as a prime target, it's easy because he is so extreme, an ulcer burning through what once was an admirable and somewhat reliable profession. But i don't blame Beck, Jon Stewart does it so much better than i. (which is, in fact, how i discovered he existed).
Look at our primary news outlets, first the networks ABC, CBS, NBC and then the standard these days: CNN--are the producers and broadcasters of the NEWS on these networks satisfied with the muddying of broadcast journalism ala Beck, Dobbs, Linbaugh? Are they satisfied that their little clips and commentaries can't compete against inflammatory and violent rabble-rousing?
What happen to the Selling of the Pentagon days CBS? Remember when Peter Jennings set things straight ABC? Huntley and Brinkley NBC? I am not asking the networks to fight the right wing haters, I am hungry for NEWS, for investigation, for responsible interpretation, of excerpts having the honest contextualizing and not a manipulation to further divide the country.
In a way i had grown up seeing journalism as service--i realize that is idealistic and yes, Hearst and Citizen Kane let us know that you need to sell papers no matter how many wars are started. Let me point out, however, they even had minds of their own. All too often and particularly true during the Bush (es') administrations, the media jumped on the government bandwagon. Embedded journalists was a kind of manipulation of the news--where were the pictures of the My Lai to remind us of our humanity? Abu Gharib was a blip in an invasion that continues to destroy lives of everyone. When did we get to "see" what was happening to our GI's and to the lives of Iraqi's? or are we meant to keep our conscience out of it all together?
The emotions that are running rampant in this current atmosphere are being fueled by the worse kind of reporting--one based on the conclusion you want the story to have. E.g. I want my story to prove that Obama wants to kill your grandmother--now take it from there.
A lot of energy is being spent bringing down a President of goodwill and respectability. Perhaps Obama should rip a page out of Bush's playbook: lie, deceive, manipulate and put your friends first and the media will love you and the country will defend you (if they can get over your being African-American of course). And maybe, just maybe, they'll let you talk to schoolchildren (my biggest omg moment)
What is missing through the pundit/journalism model is reliability, the sense that something had been thoroughly investigated and uncovered. Now when i watch a broadcaster, my first question and often my first realization is "whose side are they on?"
I am asking the Networks and anyone else in the news game to step up to the plate; okay first find the plate--the one where journalism is checks and balances of our government and these days other large bodies like insurance companies and banks, where reporting a story comes after "investigating" it, not montaging clips that support a premise, where one news outlet sets a standard of excellence and doesn't give into the fashion of broadcast fascism.
Jump in while you still have some credibility--bring credibility back to your field! I am tired of mongering and deception, I'm tired of celebs and octo-moms. Tired of cheap, tired of ugly
News is the history of our day. Take on the job with that kind of seriousness--that you are in fact shaping the way we will be looked at by ourselves and by others, now and in the future.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports