I was in college when Watergate erupted. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were national heroes. I don't know about other Baby Boomers, but I read the book "All The President's Men" and saw the movie version on multiple occasions, and I was proud I lived in a country where freedom of the press was not only guaranteed, but also lionized. We have had a long string of journalists who have fought the hard fight to bring truth to the American people. Walter Cronkite, a Mizzou alum, lead American opinion away from the Vietnam War. Edward R. Murrough exposed Joseph McCarthy and his war on perceived "communists". Those were the days.
Such is not our situation today. The news media is driven by the almighty dollar and print media is becoming extinct. CNN is a shell of the dynamic news station that my father watched religiously. MSNBC and Fox News are a joke, with pundits, not reporters, pandering to the crazies. The Kansas City Star is a shell of its former self and has fared poorly under McClatchey. No more are there reporters beating down the doors to expose corruption and malice. And local broadcast news is little more than hours upon hours of weather and sports reports, intermingled with car chases and monitoring of Twitter posts. Sad and scary.
Who is there to uncover graft and corruption, corporate greed or misfeasance. I am afraid almost no one remains to expose the liars, cheats and crooks in politics, government and big business. Every once in awhile, a "greedy" plaintiffs' lawyer successfully exposes corruption, but not often. The press is called the "Fourth Estate" for a reason. Freedom of the press is integral in exposing corporate and government wrongdoing. But where is the press now, with huge newspaper lay-offs and the broadcast dribble that passes for "news,". Of course, government sponsored NPR and public television seem less dependent on wealthy corporations' largesse. I was pleasingly surprised to see the apparently unbiased reporting of Al Jazeera America, backed by Qatar. But who is there to protect citizens? Not nearly as many folks as there used to be.
Here are five reasons that Americans must have unfettered reporting:
1. Unscrupulous politicians, who still exist, can have a hey day if no one is watching or reporting on malfeasance or even bad judgment.
2. Corporations will be able to run rampant in their pursuit of unfettered greed. Remember tobacco officials testifying, under oath, that nicotine is not addictive.
3. Massive numbers of the electorate may believe the candidate with the slickest commercials. (Don't get me started on Citizens United). Who will seek the truth?
4. With no media checking on elections, the rich and powerful will call the shots, because of their greater ability to contribute enormous amounts to political campaigns without consequence or even publication.
5. What is left of the press will, by necessity, be forced to pursue money to stay afloat rather than stories to inform the citizenry. .
I don't think this is what the forefathers had in mind while they passed the first amendment. This is a frightening state of affairs. Thank good news for Tony Botello and tonyskansascity.com. Without bloggers free from big money pressure, we would have even less information than we have today.