Friday, June 8, 2012

Superheroes and Lemmings

I fucking hate writing the news. Well, I actually adore writing, since it's my stock and trade and gives me inner satisfaction. Creating worlds with words, constructing characters and fashioning dialogue and plot is something akin to an architect designing a building or a sculptor working in marble.

Yet it's this whole writing the news thing that seems like drudgery.

It's work.

I get it. Its a paycheck. It's my profession. It's what I studied in college for four years to do. Yet the best journalism school in the world can't prepare you for the soul-crushing, eventual burnout.

That's what's going on with me now, amigos. It's this senseless grind of repeated interviews, reading documents and stringing words together at a fifth grade level that's utterly jejune and frustrating.

The other reporters in the local news organizations must feel this way, because each one of them looks as lifeless as a zombie extra from Romero's "Night of the Living Dead".

Long hours, low pay and a position in society that garners as much respect as a back alley abortionist.

Yeah, journalism is really fucking fun!

Problem I see, and I've repeated this ad nauseam, is the journalism business - nationally and locally - is a lemming circus. News agencies are stepping over each other to cover the most ridiculously trivial stories. They're giving the public information the public shouldn't know but information they want the public to know.

Stories about celebrities. Stories about political sniping. Stories about mundane bullshit you could care less about.

Petty, trivial, mental ephemera so easily forgotten.

Usher in the age of the superficial journalist, chattering gossip columnists repeating whispers down the lane.

A glut in technology means messages can be delivered at lightening speed, but what messages are we reading?

We are transforming from a population of enlightened, curious citizens into a rabble of uninformed partisan troglodytes receptive to only what we care to see.

Far from enlighteners of the masses and muckrakers sifting through documents to bring the public what the need to know about their government and world, journalists are becoming partisan propaganda machines.

The Fourth Estate should hold government accountable, not be an apologist for the left or right.

There needs to be balance and impartiality, because the people demand it. There's a trite maxim there's no such thing as an objective journalist, that all people have some sort of political leaning or bias in their writing.

If that's the truth and objectivity is a myth like unicorns or centaurs, then let's abandon it. Let's claim the corporations and media conglomerates have triumphed and you, the reader should be given only the news you want to consume in neat, digestible portions. There would be no need for punditry; reporters would be pundits, regurgitating opinion shamelessly and not bothering with facts.

Historically, this worked well under Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

In America, it feels scummy and unclean, like a truck stop bathroom or adult book store. After viewing CNN, Fox or MSNBC, I feel like I need a shower.

Reporters should not just pretend to be objective. They should cast aside their biases and report the news accurately, without prejudice or predisposition.

The public needs investigative reporting to vivisect government and cut out the rancid innards, removing the festering tumors or corruption before they grow. Without scrutiny, bad people will only continue to prey on the innocent.

Such an idealized comic book view of the world is pie-in-the-sky nonsense, mere fantasy in a jaded age of push-buttons and flashing screens.

Yet there's a crazy calling to what journalists do. We're jaded antiheroes on society's fringes, outsiders looking in. We have a sense of justice, a notion that wrongdoers should be punished, that America is not a dying swan, but a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

Now more than ever the media needs to be vigilant and start working hard for the good of the people, not a superficial segment of the population obsessed about Dancing With the Stars and the Kardashians.

We need more superheroes, not more lemmings.

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