Monday, May 5, 2008

The Fucking Fourth Estate

I’ve had it with journalism. I can’t stand writing in a town full of morally corrupt zombies whose only goal is to slather the world in their brand of bullshit. Today I talked to a city official about a capital improvement project and found him very hostile and rude. I hate dealing with hostile people. They paint you like you’re some muckraker unfamiliar and unknowledgeable with things. It was a jarring and uncomfortable conversation; he accused me of having an agenda and not asking the right questions. He said reporters should deal with the facts and not ask such accusatory or investigative questions. After he abruptly hung up, he called back 20 minutes later and said he spoke to a policeman I knew who vouched for my character.
“He said you were a good guy so the next time we speak, it will be different,” the official said.
I hate Cape May County. This place is the pus-filled boil on the anus of New Jersey. It’s demonstrably corrupt and governed by stupid men who adhere to the status quo with an unconscionable resilience.
What I hate more than the idiots in office are the idiots in the newsroom. The local media is comatose; unwilling to poke or prod or make a real difference. That’s got to be the lure of journalism – to report the crusty underbelly and expose what others want hidden. The public can’t see the things I see.
When I started out in 1994, I thought journalistic techniques were regurgitating facts and getting all sides of a story. I’ve maintained this throughout my career, even though some of my colleagues have not. Lately, I think the journalist’s mission has changed from not just writing the outward facts, but the information that is hidden. Investigative reporting is all but a lost art in the modern newsroom. Media outlets focus on the superficial and ridiculous – celebrity news, personality news and shallow news (think American flag lapel pins and why a certain candidate won’t wear them).
Without investigating reporting, there’d be no Watergate. There’d be no Iran-Contra. There’d be no articles about Clinton’s inappropriate relationship with a White House intern or Bush’s ties to big oil and the push for war in Iraq. There’d be bullshit, ready-made for consumption. Positive fluff of no substance meant to distract a jaded and addled population.
Cable news is the largest purveyor of this anti-news. It’s all about public opinion, punditry and celebrity news in a 24/7 cycle. All Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and photos of Britney’s exposed vagina.
How is this informing people? How’s it increasing civilized dialog or thought?
As the role of journalism decreases, so does the work journalists perform. Once society’s watchdogs who held public officials accountable and under a microscope, journalists are now lapdogs comfortable with their own laziness. Instead of digging deep, they’re low-rent public relations professionals, spewing information provided and lobbing softball questions.
Lately, I’ve been doing variations on the same story. It’s about how the city’s administration hasn’t been forthright with providing information to the council, even if council asks for the information for months. A group of citizens is pushing council to be more aggressive in asking for this information. They're also pushing me to write stories about all of their concerns.
After a while, it gets tiresome. It gets stale. The activists are unrelenting and some people in the administration won’t return my calls. It’s disenchanting. I’m not the bad guy here. I’m not the Grand Inquisitor. I’m just trying to take my job seriously.
I guess that’s my problem. Maybe I should just give up and abandon my standards. Be a whore for the Lords of Darkness and trash the liberal media. Print opinionated tripe designed to inflame and confuse and sacrifice the facts at the altar of convenient subterfuge.
I became a journalist because I have a gift for writing. It makes no money, garners no respect and makes one an outcast.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Yes, you sound angry. But don't be too upset. You have to stick to your personal standards. This is CAPE MAY...they are rich, stogy and set in their ways. They pride themselves on their antique houses (I shall draw a veil across my 100 year old victorian in a quaint little town)..you would assume their mindsets are progressive as well?
Who were you fooling?
Now Stone Harbor, they are progressive. Avalon too. Not so much Margate.

Worse comes to worse, have RS grade the next environmental project to push backwater sludge into the mayor's section of the beach! He probably could do that..he's smart enough!

Hail Eris! Praise BOB! But don't give up on your personal set of standards for your job. That means "go do something else". And I can't wait for your "Andy Rooney/Hunter S. Thompson -type opinion column to come out!