Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where's the ref?

Rupert Murdoch and his media empire are being investigated and castigated for their sleazy, dishonest, and probably illegal practices in managing the news.  It couldn't happen to a more deserving mogul.

Murdoch is a thug who has done much to destroy the honorable profession of journalism in all the countries where he practices his black art.  A lot of journalism's ills can be traced back to his rise.  But not all.

Journalism in this country is in a sad, sad state and that has led or contributed to many of the ills from which the country suffers.  Journalism has abdicated its responsibility as a fair and impartial referee of events.  Instead, it seems only concerned with what will capture readers or viewers.  The more lurid (and often misleading) the headline the better.  Journalism, in short, has become part of the entertainment industry and is obsessed with non-stories like the Charlie Sheen debacle or Donald Trump or, yes, Sarah Palin, the quitter from Alaska.

Our "journalists" cover these non-stories breathlessly as if they were of earth-shattering importance.  And when it comes to real stories - climate change, debt crisis, the assault on women's rights, the attempt to destroy the social safety net of the country - these same journalists will take what they would term a "balanced" approach.  They'll get a statement from some spokesman on each side of the issue and then consider that their job is done.

But all statements and all spokesmen are not equal and balance does not necessarily equal truth.  It is the journalist's job to ferret out that truth and to present it without fear or favor.  When they do that, they perform a great service to their country, even though their country may not appreciate it and may malign them.  A prophet, a teller of truth, is often not honored in his own country.  But such people are necessary if we are going to have an informed populace that can make wise decisions.

Sports depend on referees or umpires to keep the players honest.  In the real world, journalism has always been our referee, but now that referee is not paying attention to the game.  He's gazing off into the sky searching for the bright lights that will make him a star.  And the players are making up their own rules as they go along.  We need our referee to be alert and involved once again.

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