Thursday, July 24, 2008

Changes in the Media Are Not Changes We Can Believe In

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A guest post by Pcmck.

Today’s youth are witnessing history unfold before their eyes. This historical event will not be documented in textbooks or logged in our country’s archives. Yes, we are in a big election year, one which thus far, is unlike no other I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. However, the history in the making which I’m referring to is not the election or its results. It is the demise of investigative journalism.

Election Year 2008 marks the end of the true investigative journalism which has uncovered scandals and corruption, exposed unethical people and illegal activities, and contributed to keeping political and corporate leaders honest. These investigative journalists were known as the watchdogs over local, state, and federal governments, businesses, and prominent leaders, institutions, and organizations.

The media is a powerful entity. It has the capability to make or break careers, expose criminal activity, or wreak fear in persons when the slightest whisper of wrongdoing is detected. But that is the media of yesterday. True investigative journalism has disappeared, along with young boys holding the latest edition of the breaking news on city corners, shouting “Extra, Extra, read all about it,” drawing masses of people to their side as they sought to learn the latest breaking news.

When I think of investigative journalists, I think of someone on a quest for the truth, regardless of the consequences. This quest runs in their blood, constantly digging one step further to find the missing link or to verify their suspicions. They had an unquenchable thirst to be the first to expose shocking news, and an unshakeable will to protect their sources of information. The story became a part of them, inbred into their being, and was protected at all costs.

This election year has revealed that true investigation journalism has died. Journalists no longer own the stories or utilize an uncanny ability to expose details significant enough to entice a newspaper to run an extra edition. These stories are no longer the lifeline and blood of American journalists, but are owned by the corporations who issue their paychecks. When news is dictated by corporations, it is no longer journalism, ladies and gentlemen. It is merely reporting of the news. There is a difference.

Much like the proverbial weathergirl who has no background in meteorology, but merely points to a picture of a yellow sun plastered over southern Florida, today’s so-called journalists are not skilled or paid to expose news, just to report news which has already been exposed by others. Senator Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East is just one example of the moderated and watered down version of what we used to call news. It is a blatant expose’ of a media which has allowed the very corruption it used to investigate to overtake its industry and change the face of our televisions and front pages into a mere recital.

I wonder if the media is proud of their role as emcees of Senator Obama’s press opp. What we are witnessing is not reporting of the news, but rather an opportunity to be associated and viewed worldwide next to a United States Senator. They have been given rules, what to wear, what not to wear, as well as what they are allowed to hold and display. They are told who they can and cannot talk to by the Obama campaign, and then their corporate stakeholders dictate the viewpoints they are allowed to report.

Media is well versed on the international front. Foreign correspondents have traveled the world over and back again, risked their lives, and sometimes, sadly, lost their lives, in their quest to report a story. They’re well aware of what is acceptable or unacceptable dress and behavior in every country across the globe. They don’t need 300 campaign advisers to give them the rules, and under usual circumstances, would find it laughable and degrading to be told by a Senator (who is not yet an official nominee or President) what is allowed or not allowed while reporting their news story. It makes one wonder just whose story it is when the media’s job is nothing more than to recite the news, rather than expose it.

What is even more shocking than a United States Senator dictating the appearance and activities of the main stream media is the media’s compliance with those dictates. Journalists were once the very people who created fear among politicians, holding them to their word for fear of public embarrassment and exposure. Their adherence to these dictates, however, has become an embarrassment to the main stream media and a profession which was once respectable and ethical. Has there ever before in history been a time when a United States Senator told the media what to do? In decades past, journalists would have had a field day with these rules and scrambled to be the first to uncover just what the Senator doesn’t want exposed, rather than obediently reporting what he does want the public to know.

As our watchdogs are now politically and corporate owned, we can only expect more reporting of what is allowed and less investigation into what we should know. At a time when we need it more than ever, today’s generation will never know true investigative journalism. History has, indeed, unfolded before our eyes as we’ve witnessed breaking news being broken.

Journalism, particularly investigative journalism, has indeed changed. Unfortunately, it is not change I can believe in.

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