Saturday, February 01, 2014

Today's newspapers are missing their point

In a discussion on Facebook, where someone complained about the local paper, I posted this:

I think newspapers have a very fine line to walk in today's market. Yes, they should be hard-hitting and generally expose and oppose the local politicians/"authorities"/sacred cows as a matter of duty... however, those local politicians/"authorities"/sacred cows control access to information and also can influence advertisers (and may have businesses which are advertisers themselves)- and they have families and friends who will stand by them no matter how corrupt they may be, and will set off a domino effect of cancelled advertisers and subscribers. So, even though a no-punches-pulled news source would be nice, I doubt it would survive today without some truly independent financing that didn't depend on keeping the local power-mongers happy. It's a conundrum.
My editor then responded:

Not so much a conundrum, Kent. We're not afraid to annoy advertisers or public officials. We do that all the time. Every newspaper is challenged by lack of resources, in multiple forms -- time, experience, money, etc. But fairness also comes into play. It's not ethical to publish rumors; we need facts. Multi-layered discussion, best addressed one specific issue at a time.

I don't want to "get into it" with him, but I disagree.  Actually, his answer was even more disturbing than my original suspicions.

It's not about fairness (which as Scott "Dilbert" Adams points out, isn't a feature of reality, anyway).  

While it might not be ethical to publish rumors (which I actually agree with, by the way), it is a newspaper reporter's job to pursue those rumors relentlessly to see if there's any validity to them.  Yes, you need facts. So find them.  Or discover that the fact show the rumor seems to be without merit.  For now.  All "public officials" should feel so much pressure that they are afraid to do anything even marginally questionable for fear of being caught.  Never let off the pursuit.  I'm not even talking about when they're sneaking off to see their mistress or "pool boy", or to smoke crack or other private matter, but those times they might be tempted to make a backroom deal, or ally with a known crook in any way, or pocket that kickback or bribe- anything in the public realm, where they are "officially" advocating, passing, or enforcing rules against you and me and violating liberty.  In fact, the scrutiny should be so intense and unending that no one wants the job at all.  If it results in less "governing", so much the better.

No one forced anyone in a "public office" [sic] to take that "job".  They made the deliberate choice to live at my expense, without my consent, and place themselves in a position where they feel empowered to order me around and violate my life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness.  So, if they want to whine about being subjected to intense scrutiny, they should resign and get an honest job instead.  I have no sympathy.

And that is what a newspaper should do.  And what they don't do anymore, if they ever really did.  And that is very tragic.

That being said, I'm glad I'm not a reporter.  And all local cops, bureaucrats, puppeticians, and authoriturds should be, too.  Because I would enjoy exposing them way too much.