the state of journalism

Are American journalists a dying breed? And, if so, what does that mean for the future of democracy here?

A few weeks ago, I linked to the transcript of a brilliant speech delivered by Bill Moyers before the Society of Professional Journalists. The speech, entitled “Journalism Under Fire,” painted a pretty bleak picture. Over the course of the speech, Moyers touches on everything from the affects of media consolidation to the growing number of journalists around the world that are murdered each year. The image that Moyers sketches out isn’t encouraging. News departments are being squeezed, reporters aren’t being given the time and resources they need to conduct in-depth investigations, and, more often than not, the real news losing out to entertainment and propaganda in the battle for column inches.

So, today, as I’m catching up on old news, and reading about the most recent move by the EPA to further ease pollution restrictions, I begin wondering who, if anyone, will be reporting these stories in the coming years. No matter how you look at it, the trends don’t seem to be favoring journalists (or, by extension, the truth). On one hand, we have a government becoming more and more secretive, and, on the other, we have a media that is slowly consolidating into the hands of a few multinational corporations, who, it would stand to reason, would most likely underreport the news that isn’t in the best interest of their collective portfolio of companies.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that many institutions of higher education, like my alma mater, no longer offer degrees in journalism. (It’s probably also worth noting that the federal government is considering deep cuts to the Pell Grant program, which will make college even less of an option for students not pursuing programs which will land them lucrative jobs upon graduation. (While I’m on the subject, it seems to me as though the move to cut Pell Grants could be to help boost our military recruitment numbers, which have dropped off significantly over the past few years. Once you remove college as an alternative for bright, motivated students from poor families, you make the military the most attractive way to advance out of their circumstances.))

And then, just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, and that dissenting voices couldn’t be marginalized any further, out comes word that Fox News has signed an agreement with Clear Channel Communications to be their primary news provider. If this thought doesn’t send a little chill up your spine, you haven’t been paying attention.

OK, while we’re at it, did you happen to catch this story about the reporter being sentenced for not giving up his source on a government corruption story? Or, how about this one on the US military base that is banning reporters that are perceived as unfriendly? Or, while we’re at it, this old story about Cheney banning New York Times reporters from his campaign flights, in violation of long accepted practice?

I could go on and on, but I’ll just leave you with one more thought. This is from an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun. Here’s how it starts out:

People from all over Ukraine have gone to Kiev to protest dishonest vote counting in their presidential election. Exit polls, so trustworthy that they are used worldwide to uncover election fraud, showed the opposition candidate had won, and the people didn’t believe the news when it reported the government’s surprise victory.

To those of us who doubt President Bush won the election in the United States, the key differences between here and Ukraine are the methods of fraud and the passivity of the news media.

Here the party in power used unverifiable computerized voting to boost its totals and intimidation and misinformation to suppress the vote totals of its opponents, but the news media haven’t investigated it…

Bill Moyers will be missed.

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  1. Posted December 14, 2004 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    More on Pell Grants…poor Kansas.

  2. Posted December 14, 2004 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Per Cory’s article, the present administration spent the last four years passing horrendous environmental laws (weakening the present restrictions, etc.) on Fridays after 5:00 after the press has gone home and put the paper to bed. If you believe what you are doing is right and proper, why hide it?

  3. Chelseatheinfidel
    Posted December 14, 2004 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Good point. I might also add that journalism is a thankless occupation to begin with. No smart person ever went into it for the money–to say nothing of the hatred that comes your way. Few professions are more despised by the American public.

  4. mark
    Posted December 14, 2004 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I saw “All the President’s Men” at an impressionable age, I guess. I’ve always thought of reporters as heroes

  5. Posted December 16, 2004 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Mark – I agree with you – it’s the Right Wing going on and on and on about The Liberal Media. I’d bet that 95% of Americans wouldn’t have a clue who Jayson Blair is or why Dan Rather is on the list. And it’s amazing that one faux pas has destroyed an otherwise illustrious career.

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