Monday, June 06, 2005

The State of Journalism

The identity of "Deep Throat" has been revealed, but what I want to hear about and learn from are NEW journalistic mysteries and triumphs. I don’t want 30-year-old drama. I don’t want to have to rent a dusty, VHS copy of “All the President’s Men” to feel inspired about journalism. And I’m not alone.

I’ve met high school students writing for their school newspaper who are already jaded by the end of their senior year. “Journalism is alright, but I’m thinking law school or MBA,” I’ve heard some of them say. I’ve met even more frustrated college journalism students recently who say they are “tired” of working so much and don’t know why they are working so hard. One friend of mine, two weeks out of J-school, took an entry level job for a law firm and is considering law school. Another friend fresh out of J-school is heading to Sacramento for a gig in the governor’s office. What’s going on around here? Where is everyone going? And why is there such a shortage of newspaper jobs for those who aren’t jumping ship?

A co-worker commented to me that the best part about the Watergate scandal was that “the bad guys got caught.” In other words, people who did a bad thing got busted, and the underdog (the truth-telling, young journalists) arose victorious. People doing bad things were forced to behave, and the righteous were victorious.

But what’s different now is not that government and big businesses behave, they’ve just gotten savvy about covering their asses. Harper’s Index reports that the Bush Administration spends billions annually to hire public relations firms to assert favorable public opinion.

The hegemony and monopolization of newspaper companies, loss of advertising revenue for newspapers and extreme competition with faster, online news sources are creating a newspaper scene that avoids pissing anyone off like the plague.

Scripted questions and answers during President Bush’s speeches have reached comical levels, but few lambaste the administration for it. We can make light-hearted jokes about Bush’s English language bumbles and his nerdy, snickering laugh, but we can’t or won’t nail him to a cross (figuratively) for fighting a war for right-wing, capitalist profit. Why not?

Dan Rather, after a decades-long career as one of America’s most trustworthy, post-Cronkite journalists, goes down in flames because of one glitch in sourcing while uncovering an important truth. Come on, he was stiff-armed by the administration.

In the 70s we had Woodward and Bernstein. In the 80s we had ‘Fletch.’ Since then we’ve had Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair, for chrisakes. Let’s clear our throats and get it together. Let’s find a new story to get excited about, honestly.

- Gary Moskowitz


At 8:28 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

I studied journalism in college and my favorite story was the Woodward and Bernstein one. They are these massive heroes and so is Felt. I got discouraged with journalism a long time ago and it just seems to be getting worse. I don't feel that journalists today are up to the ideal of maintaining justice. I feel like they've all sold out.


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