The scariest moment of my life… and the media’s role in politics

Got sucked back into Facebook by old friends, so thought I’d look around for old CNNers, too. This led down one rabbit hole and another to this:

I thought it was going to be Armageddon. We all thought we were about to hear our colleagues get killed live.

Bernard Shaw. Peter Arnett. John Holliman, who died in a completely absurd accident here in the States and who I miss so much. These guys were consummate newsmen.

Been thinking a lot about the news biz lately and about how much it’s changed. Should I go back in? I’ve taken the liberty of expressing opinions since I quit. Does that undermine my credibility/objectivity? I think I’m scrupulous about separating my personal opinions from my reporting. Is it a Pandora’s box that can’t be closed? We all have bias; the journalist’s job is to set that bias aside for the sake of informing the public of the facts. The putrid spin-factory that is Fox News and the ideological pandering (left and, far more so, right) proffered as proof of “balance” in other news outlets make me physically ill. Millions of people actively refuse to watch any news as some sort of misguided “protest” against the establishment. Frighteningly, some younger people I’ve met can’t tell the difference between “The Daily Show” (which I love) and a real newscast–the sarcasm is lost on them. These are the same kids who think that reading Wikipedia is the same thing as getting a higher education. Many young ideologues see everything through lenses hyperfocused on their personal prescription for how the world “ought” to conform to their (parents’) expectations. They are threatened by any opinion or experience that differs from their own, adopting a “talk-to-the-hand” or “I rebuke thee” pose. So many shows (“Crossfire,” which I despised, comes to mind) thrive on a false dualism that disallows reasoned debate and a consideration of alternatives. (Ron Paul supporters are more than happy to explain this point, this being election season.) Personally, I’m hoping that the apparent growing public interest in Barack Obama and John McCain (and Ron Paul) signals that voters are now savvy and sick of such foolishness.

If the voters/viewers demand rational governance, perhaps reporters as a group will get back to watching the watchers, keeping the public informed of what its elected representatives are doing, being the Fourth Estate. Journalists are our eyes and ears, our witnesses to history, our advance scouts, the ones who read lengthy, obfuscatory, and dull documents designed to keep us in the dark. The honest ones put their lives on the line, not for the cameras, not for the ratings, but for the truth–that which powerbrokers would hide from us for their own gain, or out of fear, or to cover their own wrongdoing. There’s a reason that the First Amendment comes first. Without open discussion, without free exchange of complete and accurate information, there is no free society.

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