I'm sorry, what year is this?
Isn't it feeling an awful lot like "1984"?
I debated whether to write a post about Dave Weigel and his very bad day at the Washington Post
. I tweeted about it, at length, because I had far too much to say than would fit in 140 characters.
And then, this morning, I read this post, which says a lot of what I want to say
, so I thought I might just let Scott speak for me.
But that's the problem, isn't it?
Too many people have disengaged from discourse. Too many people are too weary or lazy or intimidated or scared to speak for themselves.
And look where it's getting us.
Saturday, my friend Marce stopped by. We met, many, many years ago, at the Chicago Tribune
. And we hadn't seen each other in several years. But back in January, I was thinning my book collection and offered the orphans to good homes, and Marce was interested in several, so on Saturday, at long last, he swung by to pick them up.
The conversation never lagged. We talked for seven hours but we probably could have logged seven more.
And not everything we talked about had to do with the news business, but a lot of it did.
I used to refer to the Tribune
as "the Hotel California of journalism."
I did manage to leave, but I never really checked out of the news business. No one does. Once it's in your blood, it stays. You continue to care. You stay on top of goings-on. You never cancel your subscription to Romenesko.
Given that I continue to look at the world at least partially through a journalistic lens, I don't have a sense of how big the Dave Weigel story was outside of my sphere. A large portion of my Twitter feed comprises journalists and commentators and news feeds. (When we lost our World Cup match on Saturday, I found out about it on Twitter. I gave up checking Yahoo! News to see how long it would take for anyone there to post a banner.)
But I read the ombudsman's column in the Post
and I scoffed. And then, as I mentioned, I tweeted. This is what I wrote:RT @markos Dear Washington Post, Progressives are also done with your paper. http://is.gd/d49DK <- The linked piece contains one of ...
... the most stupid notions ever. Quoting Raju Narisetti, “But we’re living in an era when maybe we need to add a level” of inquiry ...
... he said. “It may be in our interests to ask potential reporters: 'In private... have you expressed any opinions that would make ...
... it difficult for you to do your job.' ” Um, that would bring the potential pool of candidates down to exactly ZERO.
Yes, journalists need to be objective in the reporting of news. But journalists are citizens first, journalists second. They have opinions.
Later, I tweeted this:This made me both sigh for the sentiment and laugh for the presentation. / RT @cdashiell Katharine Graham, she dead. (Thanks, @pattidigh.)>
I love the succinctness. Katharine Graham, she dead indeed.
On Friday, the Washington Post
became much less of a force of journalism, and now stands, in my opinion, as the latest example of the decline of the news business in America.
I don't receive a print edition of any newspaper anymore. Of the local offerings, I find nothing worth reading, including the Tribune
, and while I still love the experience of reading a newspaper, I can't justify the cost, both economically and environmentally, of home delivery of the New York Times
. I read it online. However, when the day comes that it starts charging for access – as all newspapers should do and should have been doing all along – I will pony up that fee.
This post could easily evolve into a screed about Fox News, but anyone who reads this blog knows by now how I feel about it. So I'll reiterate this one point alone: Fox News is not a news organization; it is a propaganda machine with no regard for the truth and devoid of ethics.
Fox News, therefore, is not a player in the news space, because it does not broadcast news. It broadcasts lies and distortions. It pains me that it has a right to do so, but such is the greatness of our country.
What pains me even more, though, is that there are so many people, legions of people, who heed the word of Fox, chapter and verse. They do not look to other news sources. Apparently, they do not want to know facts. They only want to see their views reflected back to them, day after day.
To paraphrase Alice, in Wonderland: Fringier and fringier.
I am heartened by the fact that Sarah Palin has so few Twitter followers relative to so many others. I just checked her Twitter page. She has 180,080 followers.
Britney Spears has, as of this moment, 5,233,256.
You see my point.
As much as I do not want Sarah to enjoy any sort of audience for her idiocy (even my Republican friends allow that the woman is dangerously stupid), I also find it fascinating and grim that so few people follow her and yet more than five million hang on Britney Spears' every character.
Titles like Time
struggle to stay afloat while gossip rags go gangbusters.
Christ, even John McCain (or one of John McCain's people) posted a tweet recently to Snooki and invoked The Situation.
Really? My respect for McCain has dwindled over the years, but even so, a mashup of a United States Senator and the cast of "Jersey Shore" is one I do not want to see.
It really shouldn't be too much to expect that citizens of this country bother to know what is going on in the world. Those who think that the media is solely liberal now are mistaken. And there is still good journalism being done. The McChrystal/Rolling Stone
spectacle last week proves that. Though, that story is much less about McChrystal's snark and much more about the hopeless situation in Afghanistan. But the snark was sexier.
The other night, as Marcel and I chatted about the news, I mentioned that I grew up watching Bill and Walter on Channel 2. If you're around my age or older and hail from this part of the world, you know exactly who I mean, no last names necessary. (For the rest of you: Kurtis and Jacobson, respectively.)
I grew up watching the news. I grew up reading the paper. I remember The Daily Calumet
in the house, but I remember the Chicago Sun-Times
I remember reading Royko. I often didn't understand his columns. But I read them. Because everyone read Royko. Period.
Today, perhaps I'm a consumer of news because it was my livelihood for a number of years. But I like to think that even if it wasn't, I'd still want to know. I'd still have a curiosity about the world that didn't begin with Britney and end with Brangelina.
Times are changing at a whiplash-inducing pace. Fifteen years ago, while at the Tribune
, I interviewed Bill Kurtis for a story and I remember us talking about the buzz that newspapers had become dinosaurs and would soon go away.
Bill didn't agree with that prophecy. "Why not?", I asked.
"Because you can't take your laptop on the El," he said.
This past December, I was in his office and I mentioned that conversation. And right on cue, he pulled his iPhone out of his pocket.
And scrolled through some of his apps, including the one from the AP.
On a device much smaller than a laptop.
Once a newsman, always a newsman.
But this country needs everyone to care, just like it needs everyone to vote. Society relies on engagement.
We don't have to agree, but we do have to give a damn.