Friday, June 12, 2009

All the News

Paris Cafe September 2008

Thomas Jefferson wrote,
"...were it left to me to decide whether we should have
a government without newspapers,
or newspapers without a government,
I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

I've been researching and writing about life in Germany just before, during and immediately after World War II. Hitler Youth programs, compulsory clubs for all children over age ten (similar to the Boy Scouts) offered adventure and friendship, but were used to brainwash the kids. Curriculum in the schools was formulated by the Nazis for indoctrination. Newspapers printed propaganda and lies for over twelve years.

When the war ended, General Dwight D. Eisenhower understood that the German people needed to be reeducated and learn the virtues of freedom. To do so, he reinstated the civil liberties that Hitler had taken away. For democracy to work, freedom of speech was ultimate. Eisenhower called German radio and newspaper reporters to a meeting and told them that he wanted a free press. This meant they could—and should—report on all aspects of life in Germany, even if it meant criticizing the government and the occupation forces.

One of the most important functions of a newspaper -- a crucial function in a democracy -- is to provide citizens with information on government and politics. This function was specifically protected with the First Amendment which prohibits Congress from "abridging the freedom . . . of the press."

I love reading the newspaper, but lately I'm frustrated by the lack of news. Don Gale, a local journalist, recently wrote this:

"What happened to journalism? The quantity and quality of journalism have diminished. Journalism—that indispensable, reliable, edited form of information that provides a record of events for community, nation and world.

"Consultants now tell newspapers and broadcasters how to run their businesses. Advice is often based on studies of what sells (murder, fire, accidents.) Profit becomes more important than news. National obsession with celebrities and sports distorts the definition of journalism, and stories about celebrities and athletic events appear on front pages. Newspapers print more sports trivia than local news. On television, celebrity news and reality shows replace documentaries and in depth journalism. Resources are channeled to sports and weather.

"Journalism is in trouble when entertainers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly call their products news and no one complains. Only uninformed listeners consider the rantings of Hannity or the comedy of Jon Stewart news.

"Going to the Internet for news is like going to the fast-food outlet for nutrition. Fast food is satisfying but it isn't a balanced diet. Relying on the Internet for news leads to mental obesity and clogged thought arteries. One vital role of journalism is to present not only information that interests consumers, but also information good citizens need to make informed decisions. The Internet is a powerful tool for business and a great resource for curious minds. But it is not journalism."

Excerpts of editorial by Don Gale
Deseret Morning News, May 2, 2009

Newspapers have been around a long time. Daily handwritten news sheets were posted in the Roman Forum in 59 BC. The first newspaper in the Americas described an earthquake in Guatemala and was printed in Mexico in 1541. A reason we recognize so many great quotes and stories by Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain is because they all wrote for newspapers.

"The Internet transmits misinformation very efficiently, but there are no gatekeepers," wrote Neal B. Freeman. "We need gatekeepers." We need good journalism.

How do you get your news?


Soul-Fusion said...

I generally read the NY Times online but not necessarily on a daily basis. For the most part, I end up getting my news through morning shows (Today Show or CNN) which give me headings and then I search out articles online if I want to hear more.

Diane L said...

I'm still an avid newspaper reader. I read/skim the paper from front to back most days. In this day of electronic availability of the written word I still enjoy the tactile experience of reading real paper.
(Your first photo caption has the wrong year - unless you have some amazing time travelinOma abilities, which might be possible...)

marta said...

hmmm. i get my newspaper from donna, the old lady downstairs. she shares hers with us. but i don't know if idaho news is really news. it's usually about wild game.

so the real news usually comes blaring through the internet while dan checks out cnn or ny times. i always hear it second hand. unless it's hollywood news, i'm usually the last to know!

Travelin'Oma said...

Thanks Diane L! I haven't mastered time travel, although I want to.

Christie said...

I try to avoid the local news like the plague, but get frustrated that national media is so biased and so full of agendas. We really do need something better. Maybe your new calling in life, Omes?