CBS News promotes its Face the Nation Sunday interview program with tape of Bob Schieffer, the host, saying something like, “You’ve got to talk to the people who make the decisions. That’s the only way you find out what’s going on.”
This reminds me of a round-table interview with the three principal news anchors after the death of Tim Russert. ABC’s Charlie Gibson was asked if the media had any responsibility for the Bush administration’s deception in starting the war in Iraq. He said, “No, I don’t buy that. We asked the right questions.”
Neither Schieffer nor Gibson seem to understand what journalism is about. It’s not about asking questions; it’s about finding the answers. It’s yet another version of the age-old search for truth and meaning, set on a different stage.
People who reach Schieffer’s or Gibson’s age and stature may no longer have the energy or desire to work long hours or dig deeply to find what’s really going on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a mistake to change the job definition to fit what you’re able to do, instead of what needs to be done.
This is also part of why newspapers are dying. People need newspapers to find out and explain events. What they’ve been getting, for far too long, is just the official line: regurgitated government press releases. Investigative reporting, probably the most valued product of of journalism, is dying out at all but the largest newspapers. Newspaper owners respond to declining revenue by firing investigative reporters, thus hastening the newspaper’s decline.
Investigative journalism is incredibly expensive. It takes a long time, and may not pan out with a usable story. But the press is called “the fourth estate” because it’s expected (and much-needed) role is to tell the whole truth about what happens in and is done by the other three branches of government. In the get-rich-quick atmosphere of the last few decades, journalists too have succumbed to greed and the demands of ego.
This post was written by admin on April 17, 2009