Monday, June 7, 2010

The Failed Fourth Estate

Helen Thomas retired today, having outlived many of the news organizations she worked for, Helen’s career was cut short by a slip of the tongue that revealed a bias she’s held for many decades. Maybe, at 90, one stops caring about what people think, maybe senility finally got the upper hand.

Either way, one can be sure of two things: Helen’s views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long inspired her reporting, and that she’s not the only one that carries a deep bias, nay, an unshakable world-view.

The concept that the press, the fourth estate, is the selfless, neutral, self-anointed watchdog that keeps the powerful in check on behalf the little guy is as fictional as a cost-cutting, budget-balancing, pay-go congress.

Each of them is, after all, an individual. All of them followed the same track, studied in the same schools, listened to the same professors, worked in the same newsrooms. They know less than most about what’s going on and so weave a story consistent with how they perceive the world. Even more than politicians, they live in a bubble insulated from the consequences of their decisions, secure in their holier-than-thou mission to inform the universe of a singularly uniform view of how said universe is supposed to act and what it’s supposed to know.

Not for long sister: as the monolithic news organizations decline, an army of citizen journalists are filling the void. Providing a spectrum of views on every issue – not one truth, but all truths are told. You decide.

Sure the burden is now on you. You must care enough about something to pay attention to it. To listen to the many voices and make up your own mind.

Mark Twain (or is it Oscar Wilde?) once said: “never pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel”, luckily ink is now free.

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