The Fourth Estate is Vacant
The state wants to spy on us – but is it up to the job? | Technology | The Observer
Many moons ago, shortly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA first appeared, I wrote a column which began, “Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story”. I was infuriated by the way the mainstream media was focusing not on the import of what he had revealed, but on the trivia: Snowden’s personality, facial hair (or absence thereof), whereabouts, family background, girlfriend, etc. The usual crap, in other words. It was like having a chap tell us that the government was poisoning the water supply and concentrating instead on whom he had friended on Facebook.
The Wasteland of American News
I was reading a joke the other day. It went like this:
CNN was changing its name from “The Most Trusted Name in News” to “Holy crap, we’re all going to die.” This is from the Borowitz Report from the New Yorker Magazine. This is only a short distance from the truth. The media coverage of the spread of Ebola has been sensationalism at its worst. The 24 hours new cycle has been turned over to know-nothing commentators, crank conspiracy theorists and a band of insipid hosts who appear to have given up on even the appearance of journalism. From time to time an expert appears only to be ignored or marginalized or both. It would be hilarious if the subject wasn’t so important and the stakes so high. I’m seeing comments on Facebook talking abut the millions of dead from the Spanish Flu Epidemic and classroom talk of death dealing sneezes.
The Fourth Estate is Vacant
I have graduate hours in journalism. I’m not seeing much in this crisis. It’s been replaced by a corporate inspired search for higher ratings and for at least one network, political attacks of the most base kind. It’s all about the money. And as long as it is, the money will be on lies, exaggeration and the fomenting of panic, anything to keep the gullible and uninformed glued to that empty screen and these substitutes for competent professionals.
Surely, this tells us as a society, as a people, that glorifying greed carries a terrible price. Just when we need the truth we receive ratings fodder. Can it be any clearer that honor, fairness and truth are the basic foundation of a successful society?
If every human endeavor is only worthwhile if it is profitable, if success is measured only in coin, then this kind of “journalism” is fully justified. If a company’s only responsibility is to increase its profits, the public be damned. Even when misinformation kills, it sells.
Is business ethics just a joke? Certainly, when I tell people what I do, I get a lot of ironic smiles, chuckles and looks of pity. Maybe that’s all I deserve, a voice in the wilderness who sees Americans increasingly devolving into prey animals, narcissists who hunt for the last dollar from the last of their fellow citizens.
If common humanity, if simple human decency, cannot compel responsible journalism, how far has the nation’s moral fabric decayed?
Here are some linked quotes from other bloggers whose writing is superlative –
Journalism is a slippery slope. In order to uphold the fourth estate and provide the public with current news, ethical issues arise left, right and center. News-gathering, interviewing and reporting are areas of journalism where ethical conduct is imperative at all times in order to maintain the respect for the media as a reliable source of public information.
Journalism is not public relations. It’s goal is not to spin stories and appease audiences for personal gain, but of course, corruption is everywhere in this world even if we choose to ignore it. Unnamed sources can be fishy for a number of reasons, with the biggest one being that it encourages lazy journalism.
This is currently being threatened by the same conglomerates that overtook television and made it the face-rotting advertisement box are trying to change the rules so companies can pay extra money for an ‘internet fast lane’.
The last one is a little peripheral, but damn, what writing! (jp)