Sneaking Up On Journalism

Let’s face it…The mainstream, corporate press is an insular confederation of stenographers in the newsroom and charlatans in the boardroom.

Reporters who are obsessed with access and privilege cannot possibly be relied upon for balance and insight. That’s why what often passes for balance is just the presentation of falsehood as a response to truth. Many reporters fear that providing context, or facts, will be perceived as subjectivity. By leaving out those critical elements, falsehood and truth are left to be judged as credible equals.

The executive suites of the ever-consolidating media giants are populated by seekers of profit and power. They are more interested in the performance of their stock than the practice of responsible journalism. And since their financial interests are aligned with those of their advertisers, and their patrons in Washington, the public they purport to serve will almost always be shortchanged.

Despite the obvious dysfunction evident in this system, one thing they have expertly engineered is their own self-defense. Should the specter of honorable reportage emerge from the moat, gendarmes will repel it with dispatch. The only way, therefore, to storm the castle, is to sneak up on it from behind.

Feature writers are in a unique position to have a beneficial impact on the state of journalism and the world around them. Who says these niche reporters can’t insert socially relevant content into their stories? In a prior article, I wrote of how Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times used his column on media criticism to lambaste the hollowness of a recent speech by the Vice President, as well as the failure of the media to provide coherent coverage of the speech. Why can’t that be a model for other feature columnists?

  • Restaurant reviewers could remind their readers to be grateful that they are able to eat, much less eat out at fine restaurants.
  • Sports writers could explore athletic scholarships and broader educational curriculum issues.
  • Business columnists could cover business from labor’s perspective and investigate corporate political activity.
  • Auto columns could address global warming.
  • Medical columnists could provide information about universal healthcare.
  • The real estate pages might consider stories on homelessness.

The point I’m making here is that, if we can’t get our voices heard in conventional news forums, then maybe we should be unconventional. These special interest columns have a broad appeal and are sometimes the only way to reach readers that pay little attention to the frantic world depicted on the front pages. This could be a way to have an impact by hitting people where they live – in their homes, cars, restaurants, parks, temples, theaters, etc. Perhaps we need to undertake the initiative to inspire writers of this specialty content to take a stand once in awhile, and to show that they care about the real world that their specialties embrace.