2012/01/06

Muckrakers needed

"Th newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward". -- Finley Peter Dunne, writing as "Mr. Dooley".
In what is sometimes seen today as the golden age of print journalism reporters saw their main duty to be to investigate and expose corruption in all its manifestations. They had the backing of their editors, publishers, and advertisers in doing that, and readers paid for the best exposes. That was the day of the Fourth Estate, when it was largely the newspapers that kept government and the corporate sector, if not honest, then at least less dishonest and abusive than they might otherwise have been.

I watched the decline of that legacy. By the time I published a series of four articles in the Seguin Gazette in 1962 it was only after the other newspaper in town refused to publish, and the editor of the Gazette admitted he got a lot of heat from the town's rich lady who backed the corrupt officials I exposed.

I watched the crusading columnists fade from the pages of more and more major papers, until it was down to Jack Anderson, and his death ended the tradition for many years. As a reformer I have taken many stories of corruption to reporters, only to have them refuse to pursue them, citing their fear of lawyers, judges, the government, large advertisers, or their corporate owners, even if the fears were usually overblown in practice.

Now we have a new age: The Internet Changes Everything.

But the habits of timidity persist, leaving too many people to think that corruption is something that only happens in other countries or in the movies. That is wrong. It is deeply entrenched in our society and destroying it from within. See A Lawyer's View of the Justice System, by Joseph H. Delaney.

Your mission as online journalists, if you choose to accept it, is to focus on investigating and exposing corruption. If somebody is not trying to kill you, you' re not doing your job.

No comments:

Translate

Follow by Email

Search this and affiliated sites

Blog Archive