Prayer for Press Freedom

NEW YORK, May 4, 2005 — I find it interesting that on World Press Freedom Day, we want to honor the few journalists who have died covering wars. We should instead be praying for the multitude of journalists who have joined the profession as a way to toady to the rich and famous.

Witness the orgy of platitudes for Laura Bush who parroted a few mildly humorous jokes, undoubtedly written by a highly paid "humor consultant," in front of a bejeweled audience of media sycophant/celebrities, vying to see who could fall off their chairs hardest and fastest as proof that their "objectivity" toward this administration.

This display went way beyond simple courtesy. It made the nightly news on all three networks and, as far as I could see, got significant coverage in the major papers, such as The New York Times. CBS's John Roberts laughed so hard, he mussed up his hair while standing on the front lawn of the White House.

Instead of covering news, journalists cover their own creations, who in turn cover still new media-borgs. News is the fact that Jay Leno reads a joke about the wife of a president reading a joke. The media has fallen down the rabbit hole, and, unlike Alice, doesn't realize it's in Wonderland.

Even in his dotage, the aged Mike Wallace, has decided to become a part-time Barbara Walters-clone instead of retiring in dignity. He now spends his time throwing softballs to People magazine cover girls, so they can command even more money for their next endorsement.

Evolution is no longer covered as being the bedrock of modern Biology because journalists' teeth chatter of the thought of blowback from latter-day Elmer Gantrys.

Global warming — despite being verified by the entire scientific community — is said to be in dispute — only because Exxon/Mobil tells the press that it is in dispute.

Other major stories of the day — such as huge economic dislocation because of globalization — are squeezed off of the front pages, even the back pages, to make room for Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and whoever is on the Nielsen meter for the next minute.

I am afraid to say if there ever is global press freedom, it will be because of the efforts of a lot of people who aren't journalists, as well as the handful of reporters who became one for the right reasons.

I worked for 30 years to try to be a successful journalist, and I failed at it. At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, I am glad I did fail.

By Jeff Waggoner
— Jeff Waggoner is a union organizer with the NYS Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO.
He contributes to the New York State Progressives blog.

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