Journalists as Endangered Species
For every spotted owl in danger of losing its habitat, there’s a do-good organization out to protect it. It wouldn’t be surprising if such a tree hugging group would step up to defend the hated stink bugs, if we finally managed to find an effective and inexpensive way to destroy them. So it goes with liberal humans and the animal kingdom. But what about subsets within the human species? What about the journalists that specialize in hard-hitting straight news?
There was a time when journalists did not run around writing stories like they were getting supplemental incomes from politicians for ignoring graft on the page. On the contrary, one of the quickest ways to lose one’s job as a staff member for a Congressman or Senator would be to fail in keeping the press at bay when there was a scandal. Now, the job description of a beltway worker doesn’t tend to include hiding any misdeeds from the media, because with few noted exceptions, the media is quite willing to take being spoon-fed pablum by politicians.
Yes, there is Katie Pavlich and Brandon Darby, as well as Lee Stranahan, Robert Stacy McCain, and Aaron Worthing. There are many others like them, and the common thread there is that they are not traditional media journalists. They’re also not liberals, but this isn’t just about political leanings here. Whether it is out of a misguided notion that the current President is untouchable simply because of the color of his skin, or any other reason under the sun, the fact remains that the journalists that should be acting as watch dogs have been getting fat and lazy on the bones tossed to them by politicians on both sides of the fence.
This isn’t a new concept, of course. It also isn’t going away anytime soon. However, there is one new wrinkle to this situation. While no one would argue the point that Bob Woodward is a sacred cow in the world of journalism, if for no other reason because of his work on the Watergate scandal, perhaps he will lose some of his stature among the new crop of liberal journalists now. He probably has already, thanks to his latest works. But now he has compounded his sin, by pointing out the elephant in the room – journalists aren’t doing their jobs anymore. Woodward pointed out to Mike Allen in an interview that it is not the job of journalists to act as cheerleaders for Obama. Instead, they are supposed to be an “irritant” to politicians – not as strong a term as watchdog, but at least it’s something.
When I first started playing in the world of journalism, it was as a student. I was given the “administration beat” for our school newspaper, and had to get information from our school superintendent for the high school newspaper. That was boring, so I started actually asking questions. Soon enough, the superintendent did everything he could to avoid seeing me. Yes, that was just student journalism, but I didn’t get in trouble with the teacher for doing that. On the contrary, I was told that in general, if leaders didn’t have a problem talking to me because I asked easy questions, I was doing it wrong. If someone told me then that there would be a time when journalists wouldn’t do their jobs the way my high school journalism teacher taught us, I wouldn’t have believed it. My old teacher is still running the school paper – maybe one day I’ll go back and ask her what she’s teaching her students now about interviewing leaders. If the lesson’s the same, maybe real journalism won’t become extinct. But, at this point, we have to rely on the next generation to get journalists off the “endangered species” list.