Saturday, April 21, 2007


The press at its best is one of the greatest institutions in the US, no question. A good reporter following a story to tell us what we need to know should be cherished, especially when we need to know about political machinations.

But. And this is big. We don't always need to know everything a reporter can find out. At some point, reporting shifts from a useful activity to something harmful.

The problem is that all news media runs on money, on selling ads, and they'll sell anything they can, pretty much, so long as people will watch, and the advertisers have hope of profit and so are willing to buy time or space.

I don't know how to judge the moment when the press turns from responsible reporting to vultures circling for profit. And, were I a good capitalist, I would enthusiastically support circling for profit. (But I'm not. Write me down as "not a good capitalist" when it comes time to bring charges against me.) Once it happens, though, once the line is crossed, I recognize it, and so does everyone else.

The public doesn't need to see some grieving family member have a camera and a microphone stuck in his/her face along with a "how do you feel?" I'll tell you what, we can all answer, "terrible." Seriously, that's not reporting, that's savagery.

Some time ago, I lived in a big city. And disaster struck. Okay, actually, I've been in a couple big cities for a couple of disasters.

Weirdness is watching a big building in the next block burn, and looking up to see news helicopters circling around, and then going inside to see footage from the same helicopters, and recognizing your apartment building.

Anger is seeing some intrepid reporter, say Dan Rather, dressed in safari clothes to report on an urban event days after it's happened, getting in the way of people trying to repair things and working for the community. (For some reason, the safari clothes seemed to add insult to injury.)


Dear Reporters,

Go follow up on the political issues making recovery difficult in New Orleans. Go follow up on the decision making processes in DC.

Get the [expletive deleted] out of people's faces in Virginia. Get out of the way of investigators, get off campus, don't hassle families. You're not doing good or informing the public of news we need at this point, but rather you're causing more pain. Stop. Think.


Dear Public,

Quit watching lousy "news" on television. When the lurid photos come across, turn off the television. Let advertisers know that you're not interested in seeing microphones jammed into people's faces when they're facing difficulties and need help, not hindrance. Make this sort of reporting unprofitable, and they'll stop, because unlike me, they ARE good capitalists!


  1. Couldn't agree more!!

  2. For me, I exist on NPR...good reporting, not obnoxious, non-capitalistic.

  3. Sadly, I fear that you're "preaching to the choir" -- and the persons who really need to hear this message are glued to their screens hoping for more bloodshed...

  4. The reason it took me 4 days to find out what happened is because I don't watch the news (largely because of the very attitude you describe in your post); and didn't notice until I started catching up on some blogs from a week away.

    Also, you've been tagged with the "5 reasons why I blog" meme! :)

  5. A very good post, Bardiac - thanks!

  6. PhD Me, thanks :)

    Undine, :) I taught "The Pope's Penis" today. I think one of my students is going to trash my evaluation for being a horrible sacriligious person. Maybe I should show him your "amen"?

    Roaringgrrl, NPR is a great national resource! /agree!

    Artemis, Alas, I fear you're right.

    MWaK, Thanks for the tag :) See, there's an advantage to being too busy for words, eh?

    Medieval Woman, Thanks :)

  7. Started to reply, but got too wordy. If you're interested, I posted my comment on my blog here.

    (Crap, I hate to look like a spammer. But I also hate to drop 600 words in a comment. Sorry.)