Tag Archives: Journalism

I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 


The Myth of Democracy and the Demise of the Fourth Estate

Our system of government is based on a concept of checks & balances between branches of government. Executive, legislative, and judicial. A fourth “branch” or “fourth estate” has historically been the informal final arbiter of truth within this system.

Journalism had enjoyed a reputation of objectivity for some years. Think Murrow, Cronkite, and the unsung heroes of truth that trudged the wires for AP and UPI. Broadcast journalism was the first to fall (the “Eyewitness News” model) and the line between truth and “message” became blurred.

NPR and PBS were my last hopes. NPR has increasingly come under fire for some administrative personnel decisions (Juan Williams) but for my money, continues to provide generally objective, thoughtful content.

Then PBS. Another stalwart of objective journalism. The PBS Newshour and Frontline are, in my opinion, unmatched for in-depth editorial content. Other news organizations such as Al Jazeera and BBC also continue to produce top quality content.

Now this.

I read this article from David Sirota and another piece of me died. To summarize, PBS is launching a two-year series called “The Pension Peril”. The series promotes cuts to public employee pensions (disclaimer: I am a former county employee who is not receiving a public pension and is adamantly opposed to exorbitant public pensions).

Here’s the poison pill: the series financed by, as the article states “former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.”

Et tu PBS? Your argument that you retain editorial control over content is a shameful expression of crap clearly designed to save face in light of the disclosure of your masters.

That the PBS Newshour promotes the series sickens me. When I think PBS, I think objectivity, truth, integrity.

Whether it is an economic reality forcing this funding or not matters little. They’ve entered the partisan arena inhabited by subjective “news” organizations such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

I have no argument with balance. The MSNBC counter to Fox and their ilk. What I have issue with is the demise of the Fourth Estate…

Of truth…

Of integrity…

Of the myth of democracy…


Pressorism in Boston

BlackBox

I typically illustrate my posts with an image representative of the subject matter. There will be no graphic photos from the scene of today’s tragedy. Simply a black box.

The vermin, or the entity responsible for today’s murders wants you to see the graphic images.  They want you to remain glued to your television or computer, recoiling in horror at their “political” actions. And sadly, our so-called “journalists” are only too willing to accommodate these dark desires.

First things first. My heart and prayers go out to those physically and emotionally affected by today’s terrorist activity. It is simply unconscionable to me that a human being or a group of human beings could inflict this type of violence on innocent people.

Secondly, and prescient to my post, we really have a limited view of what exactly happened today. We know there were at least two explosions at the end of the Boston Marathon. As of now we know three humans lost their lives, children included, and hundreds injured. Not to mention the emotional toll on those at the scene, both victims and first responders.

Terrorism defined: “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”.

It is critically important to put this incident in perspective, and from the limited information we have, it is virtually impossible to do so. What we can say with confidence is that the leading media outlets, with some notable exceptions (WBUR to name only one), embarked on a reflexive, almost Pavlovian orgy of misinformation in the minutes and hours following the explosions.

“Saudi man arrested”. “Suspect being guarded by SWAT team at hospital”. “Multiple unexploded devices found”. “Third explosion at JFK Library”.  And so on…

“Pressorism”. I define it as the systematic infliction of terror by unethical journalistic organizations.

A year or so from now we will be able to look back on this event with something close to sober reflection. It will be in context with the events of the day and their correlation to events in our world. Today, it was a frenzy of pressorism…media outlets carelessly feeding into the fear.

The fear these sociopaths were counting on.

 


I Stopped Watching Local News…and Lived!

local-news

Not too long ago, my son asked me on what channel I watched local news.  I told him that it had been quite awhile since I had tuned in to the local version of infotainment.  In fact, I couldn’t recall when I had stopped watching it, since it had been so long since I was graced with Susie and Dan exchanging witty repartee while dissecting the risks and benefits of liposuction.

Here in Los Angeles, there actually used to be some quality journalists: John Schubeck, Bill Stout, Warren Olney to name a few.  But as a lad I recall when we were introduced to “Eyewitness News”; and the era of “Happy Talk” journalism hit the ground running.

On the rare occasion today (usually a public T.V. while in an airport or at some other event) that I am exposed to this nonsense, I am sadly reminded of the decline of television news, particularly at the local level.  I specifically exclude  the local PBS affiliates and NPR as it goes without saying that they are the last bastions of “real” daily television journalism.

I guess what causes me the most alarm is the number of “adults” 18-65 that watch this drivel and actually believe they are watching news and being informed.  That Ronald Reagan and George Bush won two presidential terms sustains my belief that we are a nation of ill-informed (at best) citizens unwilling to take the time to understand what “real” journalism is.

It is:  unbiased, sourced, verifiable and editorially overseen by professionals with degrees in journalism from real journalism schools.  It is not: TMZ, ANY local news outlet, Fox, MSNBC and sadly now: CNN.

Yes, I’m generalizing and yes I’m oversimplifying.  But what I am not doing is being lazy and willing to submit my mind to the commercial pabulum force-fed us these days.  It’s easy to be cynical about this state of affairs (I am guilty of this more often than not) but submit that in this day of the internet, with a virtual encyclopedia on your damn phones, that none of us have any excuse to be NOT informed or ILL informed.

There are some great apps for your phone and tablet and laptop kids…Reuters, BBC, PBS, NPR, Washington Post, New York Times, even Al Jazeera and Haaretz offer solid journalism, albeit the last two must be viewed through the lens of their masters.

At the end of the day, we are all responsible for seeking and consuming responsible sources for the information we use in our daily lives to make decisions about what we want our world to look like.  If yours is the local news outlet, please consider educating yourself.  You may just learn that everything isn’t “Breaking News”…

 


Dorner Dies…and So Does Journalism

This post is likely premature considering the scope of journalistic malfeasance that is continuing to develop around the story concerning former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner.  The case itself raises multiple cultural, procedural and institutional questions.

Reports as of 8:15pm PST indicate that Dorner did in fact die in the cabin where he was suspected of hiding.

What also died today was the last vestige of journalistic integrity.  During the early stages of this incident, according to multiple sources, law enforcement authorities asked journalists to not only clear the airspace above the incident (a relatively routine request) but to stop disseminating information, specifically via Twitter.  Reports also indicate that law enforcement radio traffic  broadcast via the internet was also cut off.  Tactical safety of the officers was the reason given.

Operational safety.  That’s why the hordes of reporters simply complied with this request.  Hmmm.  I used to work in public safety so I know a little more than the average Joe about these kinds of scenarios.  I was also a trained and certified Public Information Officer…in other words the guy the agency put in front of the microphones to release information.

Here’s the deal…there’s a little thing called the First Amendment that guarantees free speech and a free press.  What that means kids is that the government shall not abrogate that freedom.  In other words, all the requests made by law enforcement today flew in the face of said amendment…and the organizations who should have been screaming the loudest in protest…meekly complied.

A very dangerous and ominous precedent.

There are operational and tactical safety issues that should be taken into account when a news organization covers a story.  But most public safety agencies have a multitude of ways of policing this issue themselves (not releasing information, back channel “coded” radio  frequencies not available to the public/media, etc).  Look, it’s not okay to televise the tactical movements of officers during a live operation if it’s possible that the suspect could take advantage of that information.  But to immediately, and apparently unquestionably conceded to these demands is outrageous.  There is always a healthy give and take…a dance if you will with the facts between these competing interests.  In this case, one of the interests quit dancing altogether.

I was not there.  I do not have access to all the facts.  I am simply stunned however, that based upon all the fact available to me at the moment, that the press rolled over so easily.

Folks…this is how democracies fall and we need to get off our lazy butts and start paying attention and demanding answers.

RIP to all those killed by this sociopathic coward.  Let’s honor their  memories by demanding more from our government and from our democracy.

 


The Reality of Donuts.

So I’m listening to NPR this weekend and there is a professor discussing the new reality of journalism.  And to paraphrase badly, he describes the reality as being a donut.  The donut hole are the issues, or realities that all parties can agree on.  The donut itself are the areas that require balanced journalistic effort…present both sides of the issue: fact checked and properly sourced.  And the space outside the donut are the areas that most people can agree are non-issues.  As an example, he stated that 40 years ago, the Obama birth certificate issue would have been a non-issue…it was so far outside the norm that it would have received no validation in the media.

He further suggested that the issue of global warming should receive the same lack of attention.  The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that it is real.  To suggest otherwise is to embrace a fringe belief based on hyperbole and politics.

Oh, if it were only that easy.  In fact, if it were that easy, I’m afraid Fox News would have to reduce it’s programming from 24 hours, to about 2.  The proliferation of right-wing talk radio, followed shortly by media giant Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, and the response from MSNBC and other flatly biased liberal news organizations have created a scenario where, as the professor said, the donut has been blown to pieces.

Nietzsche said “there are no facts, only interpretations” but I don’t buy it.  I think we can all agree that the sun will come up tomorrow…and that if it is out, it is daytime.  Interpretation perhaps, but a truth within the dount hole.

It’s past time for reasonable people to stand up and call BS on the biased, merchants of spin.  On both sides of the aisle.  It’s past time we came to the consensus that some things are not real and refuse to entertain them in the public discourse.  Crap is crap…”if it walks like a duck” can become our Mantra.

Look, everyone views things through the prism of their own experience.  I’m just suggesting it’s time for the critical thinker to stand up and be counted…and to have the moral authority to discount that which is false.  It’s not a radical thought.  It’s what brought down Joe McCarthy.  It’s what keeps the donut hole full…


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