Thursday, October 12, 2006
OPEN LETTER TO REPORTERS
I am writing an open letter to formally record my utter disgust and disdain for what you have done to a once nobel profession.
Some background: My father was a professor of journalism at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan and was part of the team winning the Pulitzer Prize for covering the Detroit Riots (1968, Local News)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Pulitzer_Prize). My mother was the second female journalist on staff, ever, for the Schenectady gazette. I began my career as a journalist for the Ferndale Gazetter in 1979, and wrote for various publications through the years (e.g., Ferndale Gazette, The South End, and the San Diego Union Tribune). I now do freelance work, in my capacity as a specialst in biology/science matters, for a local FOX affiliate. Therefore, my comments are grounded in an appreciation of some journalism basics. For you reporters who have forgotten, these basics are:
WHO. WHAT. WHERE. WHEN. WHY. HOW.
I am not interested in "gottcha" reporting. I am not interested in interpretations of words/events/speeches -- I have brains enough to do that myself. I want the facts -- just the facts. If I want news analysis, I have specific sources for that.
I was appalled by the disdain and disrespect shown to President Bush during the recent Rose Garden press briefing by news reporters. While you and I may not agree with Presdient Bush on all matters, the fact is he is due some basic courtesy and thougtfulness while being questioned. Here is an example of the idiocy that passes for great journalism today:
(Terry Hunt, AP): Thank you, Mr. President. Democrats say that North Korea's reported test shows that your policy has been a failure, that you got bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction while North Korea was moving ahead with a bomb. Is your administration to blame for letting North Korea get this far?
How shameful. As far as I am concerned, we are now reaping the effects of President Clinton's policies of the 1990's. President Bush is left to address the mess left behind during Clinton's reign of zipper diplomacy. However, even if I belived otherwise, I think this question is appalling and does not hit anywhere near the heart of what Americans such as myslef would like to know -- WHAT DOES THE ADMINISTRATION PLAN TO DO NOW?
President Bush is stuggling with weighty global matters, and is attempting to do the best with the available resources and personality. He is not evil, and wants what is best for the country. Instead of treating him with such contempt, would it be too much to ask for addressing the President with tactful, thoughtful questions that would actually be the basis for stories I would want to read.
I used to love reading the newspaper and news magazines. However, during the last 10 years, I have found myself turning to alternative news venues. Presently, I confine my news reading to the local section of our city newspaper, and the comics section. My husband will read the business and sports sections. Our national and international news is obtained through the Drudge Report, FNC and other internet and radio sources. We can't be the only Americans for whom this is now true.
Here are other items that reinforce the above points:
Not to make too big a deal of this, but falsifying that report - as Reid apparently did - is a federal crime. Under Title 18 US Code Section 1001, it's a false official statement. For which Reid could be sent to jail. If you're looking for this on tonight's network news or on the front page of tomorrow's New York Times (next to the newest revival of the Foley minutiae) you won't find it. There's ample time for Mark Foley, the discredited generals' revolt, and even the comprehensively discredited Lancet report on civilian casualties in Iraq. But cover a real scandal, with real misconduct that's punishable under federal criminal law? Just imagine if this were Bill Frist, not Harry Reid.
Oops. Back in 2004, then-ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran argued President Bush’s tax cuts were building debt, not prosperity: “Most experts say that making those tax cuts permanent would cause gigantic deficits virtually as far as the eye can see.” Early last year, CBS’s Bob Schieffer suggested it would be impossible for the federal budget deficit to be cut in half before 2009 without raising taxes: “The government has just got to find some money to finance these programs.”
Well, the tax cuts haven’t been repealed, and there have been no big new tax increases. But yesterday the White House announced that final tallies for the federal government’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, the budget deficit had shrunk from $413 billion two years ago to $248 billion. The federal government collected $2.407 trillion in taxes in FY2006, $122 billion more than originally forecast back in February.
While I wish that my journalist friends would be successful, the traditional media will continue its freefall as it continues to alientate about 50% of its potential audience -- and, most significant, alientates that portion of the population that is most readily interested in current events. Now is the time to get back to the basics, include information from all points of view (not just liberal, Democrat, coastal-area sensibilities), and treat fellow, law-abiding Americans with basic human dignity (even if they hold different political views).