Americans deserve better from the press

“As journalism goes, so does democracy.” So says Bill Moyers, president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy and the host of Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS. Nothing could be more true, especially after looking at recent news reports about ties between the corporate world and major media outlets.

In my lifetime, I have seen the demise of an objective media. Around the time I was born, Washington Post reporters like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were uncovering the Watergate Scandal and Sydney Schanberg of the New York Times wrote about the top secret U.S. bombing campaign of Cambodia — a campaign about which President Richard Nixon brazenly lied to the American people. Where is this kind of journalism today?

For the most part, journalists these days, for whatever reason, write for editors and publishers who cater to political agendas, political parties, what group becomes most angry, to moral agendas and to whoever has the most money. Reporters will take at face value almost any statement from politicians, and do little if any follow-up as to the truth of those statements.

Recently, we’ve seen in the news that corporate America has invested in the media. For example, GE has been tied in with MSNBC, and ACORN, so-called community reform advocates, is financially tied to “The Advance Group,” a media relations organization with hooks into what we now call “the mainstream media,” or “MSM.” ACORN also received $800,000 from the Obama campaign, has been embroiled in charges of voter registration fraud, and is currently involved in a spectacular scandal wherein some staffers have been giving advice on how to smuggle in underage girls for work in government-mortgaged houses of prostitution. Fox News and bloggers are covering this. Where are the other major media outlets?

In my short time as a reporter, I have seen many newspapers, including our own, endorse candidates and take positions on amendments and ballot issues.

With this kind of activity taking place how can a free press in the Jeffersonian tradition write objectively? How can the press keep public officials and corporations accountable when it is in bed with its subjects?

The media needs to wake up. Newspapers all around the country are failing, they say, because of the Internet. This is true, but I believe that they are also failing because they refuse to print the truth. Bloggers on the Internet have done the job that the media at large has failed to do: expose corruption at its core.

In 1733, a Colonial printer, John Peter Zenger, said, “The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservative of the whole.” This statement was written long before the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were conceived. If our forefathers understood this, why don’t we?

This quandry is not entirely the fault of the media. It is also the fault of the American people who have tolerated “press candy” for far too long. As a country, we have let the media shape our thinking through excessive viewing of mindless shows and news reports. We have let the media do our thinking for us rather than delving into the writings of the nation’s founders and learning to think for ourselves. Because of this, we have failed to keep the media accountable. During the August town hall meetings, we saw demonstrations and protests against the government’s arrogant effort to ram a frightfully expensive, and ill-thought health care bill down our throats without taking the time for debate and reasoned discussion. The American people have been called derrogative names because we dared to question these politicians. The press, the mainstream media, should have been doing the questioning, and should have called these politicians to account for behaving so poorly.

The media is failing us. We are Americans. We deserve a press that lives up to the ideas the Founders framed in that First Amendment to our Constitution. We deserve better than what we are getting.

Make me a blessing

As I sit down to write my commentary this week, I have no idea what to write. Sometimes that happens, especially when I have a lot on my mind or when I have put all of my energy into a particular commentary like last weeks.

Sometimes there are periods of non creative flow. I've experienced that this summer. In fact, last Monday was the first time I arrived at the office with an idea for a story rather than having to sift through my email or talk to someone.

Like anything, a clear mind comes and goes. There are some days when there is not a care in the world and the creative process and everything else just seems to flow. On other days there is not enough money (or coffee) in the world to get the juices going.

Our spiritual life can be like that too. One day every thing's great. We seem to have a direct line to heaven when we pray, our heart sings and all is well. Other days prayer does not come easily and we feel listless. The only prayer we can get out is "What have I done wrong?" or "Where are you God?" and the response is stony silence.

Throughout my Christian experience, I've learned that when I have those listless days, I may not have necessarily done anything wrong, nor am I harboring sin. It may be that I don't feel well or that I am experiencing some type of subconscious dilemma. During those times I try to be honest with myself and with God about how I feel and ask God to help me stay encouraged as we work through the problem.

I pray that I have the wisdom to recognize this form of discouragement in others. There have been many times when I have been blessed by someone who just listened or said something kind. I pray, like the old song that God will help me to bless others.

Here are the words to the song. I hope that it is your prayer too.

Make Me a Blessing
Ira B. Wilson, 1909

Out in the highways and byways of life,

many are weary and sad;

Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,

making the sorrowing glad.


Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,

Out of my life may Jesus shine;

Make me a blessing,
O Savior, I pray,

Make me a blessing to someone today.

Verse 2

Tell the sweet story of Christ and his love;

Tell of his pow'r to forgive:

Others will trust him if only you prove

true ev'ry moment you live.

Verse 3

Give as 'twas given to you in your need;

Love as the Master loved you;

Be to the helpless a helper indeed;

Unto your mission be true.