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Journalists As Truth-Tellers
Bill Moyers, The Nation
... I also had to learn one of journalism's basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.
Unless you are willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take all of the slings and arrows directed at you by the powers that be--corporate and political and sometimes journalistic--there is no use even trying. You have to love it and I do. I.F. Stone once said, after years of catching the government's lies and contradictions, "I have so much fun, I ought to be arrested." Journalism 101.
... So for all the blunders for which we are culpable; for all the disillusionment that has set in among journalists with every fresh report of job cuts and disappearing news space; for all the barons and buccaneers turning the press into a karaoke of power; for all the desecration visited on broadcast journalism by the corporate networks; for all the nonsense to which so many aspiring young journalists are consigned; and for all the fears about the eroding quality of the craft, I still answer emphatically when young people ask me, "Should I go into journalism today?" Sometimes it is difficult to urge them on, especially when serious questions are being asked about how loyal our society is to the reality as well as to the idea of an independent and free press. But I almost always answer, "Yes, if you have a fire in your belly, you can still make a difference."
I remind them of how often investigative reporting has played a crucial role in making the crooked straight. I remind them how news bureaus abroad are a form of national security that can tell us what our government won't. I remind them that as America grows more diverse, it's essential to have reporters, editors, producers and writers who reflect these new rising voices and concerns. And I remind them that facts can still drive the argument and tug us in the direction of greater equality and a more democratic society. Journalism still matters.
But I also tell them there is something more important than journalism, and that is the truth.
(7 April 2008)
Student Sees Problems With H.S. Text
Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press
Talk about a civics lesson: A high-school senior has raised questions about political bias in a popular textbook on U.S. government, and legal scholars and top scientists say the teen's criticism is well-founded.
They say "American Government" by conservatives James Wilson and John Dilulio presents a skewed view of topics from global warming to separation of church and state. The publisher now says it will review the book, as will the College Board, which oversees college-level Advanced Placement courses used in high schools.
Student Matthew LaClair of Kearny, N.J., recently brought his concerns to the attention of the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst, N.Y., think tank that promotes science and which has issued a scathing report about the textbook.
"I just realized from my own knowledge that some of this stuff in the book is just plain wrong," said LaClair, who is using the book as part of an AP government class at Kearny High School.
(10 April 2008)
The Emperor has no clothes. -BA
In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
Matt Richtel, New York Times
They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece - not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.
A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.
Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.
(6 April 2008)