The city editor was about five-three, but tough as nails. I handed him the first draft of a story about people who had done bad things to other people, with bribery a given and murder a possibility.
``Are you sure about this?'' he said.
``Still checking, but yes.''
``Okay.'' He paused, then handed the story back to me. ``Let's get the Bastards.''
Ever since that day I have defined journalism, at its highest calling, as ``Getting the bastards.'' It's what journalism is primarily about; it protects our society and civilization from corruption and exploitation.
Not always, of course, but probably as often as not. It's about as important as you can get.
But it is going away. That is, newspapers are going away, and imperfect as they are, we will not survive as a democracy without them. The bastards will get us. It's that simple.
Every day we hear of newspapers laying off employees or closing down. They're in almost as much trouble as GM, but more important than GM. Obama drew the parallel between business and journalism at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but don't expect journalism to ever get a bailout, which, in any case, would compromise it.
Without that small community weekly you may never know that a councilman is on the take or a commissioner is bending the rules for his cousin the developer or that a local charity is being ripped off.
Without that big city daily, and as times get darker, you may not realize that books _ books by you, perhaps _ are being censored or burned across town or the mayor's corrupt. So books will continue to be censored and burned and the mayor continue to take.
And without newspapers or other media on watch, the corruption will increase exponentially. The possibility of being exposed is of some deterrent value, and that would be gone.
Don't ever expect conscience to be much of a deterrent. Some of the corrupt individuals I have interviewed, people of financial or political power, often had the elitist attitude that it is their right to take, and I've actually had some of these individuals indicate I had a lot of nerve questioning their right to do so. They become, for heave's sake, indignant.
Don't expect politicians to police themselves; almost never happens because it reflects badly on what they do and many of them are living in glass houses anyway.
And don't expect the internet or the slew of talk shows, left or right, to actually do journalism; they seldom have. Journalism is not something you lift off someone else, it is hard work, having the courage to dig and ask tough questions, braving intimidation and sometimes facing threats, perhaps of death.
If anyone questions the latter, look at Russia where, the press having to fight a repressive system, is seeing its more courageous journalists murdered. As newspapers and other worthwhile media lose traction in this country, it will become more and more dangerous to write the truth, perhaps as dangerous as it now is in Russia.
Thomas Jefferson, though often a very tough critic of newspapers, once said, `` ...were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.''
We seem to be pointed in the direction of the former.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...