Opinion journalism has exploded with the rise of cable TV and the blogosphere. What seems to be disappearing in the fog of opinion is accountability journalism.
Now, I understand clearly that pure “objectivity” doesn’t exist, and every effort to report anything will reflect the touch of the reporter. History is replete with even the biggest and the best news organizations being influenced by owners who have a political bias.
However, the large newspapers and news-gathering associations like Associated Press had a bevy of talented investigators and sleuths who knew how to dig around the bins of a state capital, nose around city hall and ferret out information from the local precinct captain.
And they were generally held accountable by editors who were hard-hitting and demanding, not only about style, but content and accuracy.
Though flawed, it was a remarkable means by which Americans would receive the news and have a chance to ponder their own point of view in light of information, mostly factual in nature.
Hannah Arendt noted: “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed.”
It’s the “guarantee” that seems in jeopardy these days. When in a heartbeat, an emotional display will influence millions with pat phrases and appropriate appeals to whatever the ideology of the day might be, that , upon closer examination, is as empty of content as last night’s cereal bowl.
I regret that our nations news industry is on the ropes, and no one cries out, “hold the presses” for breaking news – it’s all done now digitally.
I’m part of that revolution. I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper for some years now. But every time I buy one, for breakfast at the local diner, I’m amazed – so much news in so little space; so much that I would otherwise not immediately find on my Google Homepage.
I’m thinking of subscribing to a local newspaper, just because I want to see the print news media remain a player in the flow of factual information, the essential element in freedom of opinion.
Perhaps we all need to pony up for the news – because the old adage may well hold true: we get what we pay for. And if it costs nothing, well, maybe, that’s what it's worth.
I don’t know for sure. But maybe if we want to maintain the flow of factual information so that reasoned opinion can be independently formed, we might have to put a little more into the kitty.
Thanks to the Christian Century, December 1, 2009, p.7