The Press: Wasserman on its Vital Role

Thanks for the Helen Thomas’s of this country.  Thanks for the Volsky’s of this city who are fully in the tradition of rooting out the incompetents, the crooks and the failed government, and drive the mayor and commissioners nuts with their articles.  While they have their fair share of mistakes, overdoing it or simply appearing more irritated than objective, we need that reporting.

Even a small town like Coral Gables needs overseers of government secrecy, and you will not find them in places like the that is more softball than not, more irrelevant than not.

…the Society of Professional Journalists, the country’s premier order of newspeople, is furrowing its brow, a dangerous sign, and weighing whether to kill off the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement, which SPJ has given since 2000. The problem is that Helen Thomas has crowned her own lifetime achievement as a pioneering female White House correspondent with some ridiculous remarks of late about Israel.

Now, Helen is not alone, and the world is full of people who have made ridiculous remarks about Israel, including no small number of Israelis. No matter. She has made irresponsible utterances, and she must pay. She already lost her job, but now her legacy must be dismantled.

In fact, Helen Thomas remains a giant of 20th century U.S. journalism, who ignored her peers for decades by annoying every president since John Kennedy…

But now we’re in the age of responsibility. Mainstream journalism doesn’t rock boats. Today’s curmudgeon isn’t Mencken, it’s Andy Rooney, fussing over why his corn flakes don’t come in a much smaller box, seeing how much the contents settle, know what I mean?

Or take WikiLeaks. A sobering article from McClatchy’s matchless D.C. bureau chronicles the way U.S. news media have scrambled to distance themselves from the most extraordinary worldwide assault on official secrecy ever.

Why? Why would newsfolk who should revel in chipping away at government deceit do anything but rejoice at the flood of authentic documentation that Wikileaks, withstanding enormous pressure, has directed to them — even deferring to their judgment as to what’s wise to publish?

Protecting unpopular expression instead of punishing it, defying authority instead of cuddling up to it, refusing to march in lockstep regardless of governmental or popular pressure, these are the actions not of an irresponsible press, but of one that’s doing its job.

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About Stephen E. McGaughey
Resident of the City of Coral Gables

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