Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Thank You Note For Your Newspaper

On today's 4th of July in a country where our national elected officials spend a huge percentage  of their time not on important issues facing our citizens but on raising money for their reelection campaigns, where the Supreme Court has ruled that control of the political system by the rich is just fine and dandy, where we can say with certainty we live in the only industrialized nation where families go bankrupt because of medical bills, it's time to write the CEO (most likely a member of the 1%) of the parent company of your metro newspaper and TV station a thank you note for letting the country's problems go so thoroughly unanalyzed.

Go to your newspaper's web site.  Try to find the most in-depth interview with your local Congressmen where the elected officials are actually pushed to provide specific answers to specific questions.   I live in Ohio, home of Speaker of the House John Boehner.   I can't find Boehner being pushed for specifics in an interview at the Plain Dealer or the Enquirer or the Dispatch or the Blade or the Daily News.

Go to your major metro newspaper's web site and try to find any examination of healthcare systems around the world.

If you're more of a history buff, go to the newspaper archives and check for the hard-hitting interviews the reporters did as Congress dismantled one fiscal control after another that had been put in place following the Great Depression (Yes, back then politicians had the political will and common sense to correct a dangerously out-of-control financial system).

In this day where we see one scandal after another in college athletics, where protecting a football program is more important than protecting children, go to the cheerleading (sports) section and see the hard-hitting interviews the sports reporters have done with college presidents about the runaway costs of college athletics.    Pay particular attention to how university presidents explain why it's good public policy for the highest paid public employee in state after state to be either a football or basketball coach.
See if there's any reporting about how athletic departments did their part in saving the auto industry since nearly every head coach gets a free car.   In Ohio and Wisconsin where governors have so vociferously complained about the costs of public employee salary and benefits, see what they say in the news articles examining the cost of college sports programs, most of which are multimillion dollar budget holes universities plug by charging fees to academic students.

In your letter, thank your CEO for his corporation's lack of serious reporting that's so desperately needed for an informed electorate in a democracy.   On this 4th of July when it's impossible to turn on the TV without seeing a political ad paid for by a billionaire, just say "thanks for the mess."

When journalism fails, bad things happen.

P.S.   And we can all be thankful to be in a country that has a public records law and free speech.   We can be thankful for news organizations like ProPublica and Frontline and Morning Edition and reporters and editors who actually do what journalists are supposed to do.
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