Despite my mainstream media credentials, I'm too often disappointed by what the MSM does in its pursuit of fame and acclaim. Whether it's insisting on investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame for political reasons without the commonsense and foresight to realize that it would only hurt the media's credibility or displaying incredible arrogance that reporters know what will and will not hurt national security when it comes to classified information, the media hasn't often clothed itself in glory the past few years.
When the Pulitzers come out, I won't be surprised if The New York Times actually wins for hurting the U.S. efforts to keep the country safe from terrorism, rather than The San Diego Union-Tribune's discovery of the largest bribery scandal in U.S. history. There's good journalism out there, but far too much of it is crap.
Which is why we shouldn't be surprised when efforts are made, like this one by Eric Newton, director of journalism initiatives at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, to put lipstick on the pig.
Since you won't learn what everyday journalists do from watching talk shows, let's run down a list of what they have actually done this past year, drawn from the entries to the National Journalism Awards:
â€¢Â Died in war zones so we can know what was really happening.
â€¢Â Risked their lives to warn their towns when bad hurricanes were coming.
â€¢Â Explained how Social Security works and how to fix it.
I applaud journalists who go into war zones to tell us what's happening. Freelance journalist Steven Vincent was one of them and he paid with his life -- only to have vicious slanders told about him because his reporting didn't always toe the liberal line. Today, most journalists in Iraq don't leave the Green Zone. This is understandable, because those who do face the threat of kidnapping, but if they're going to stay in a hotel, they might as well be in Illinois as Iraq.
Journalists "risked their lives to warn towns when bad hurricanes were coming"? You're kidding me, right? We have satellites that can spot hurricanes as they are forming and planes that fly into them to tell us how fast they're spinning. People have televisions and radios to get the news -- there's no need for journalists to "risk their lives" to stand out in a hurricane to show how bad it is on live TV. Set up a couple of remote-controlled cameras and get inside a sturdy building. Journalists should not be applauded for their stupidity.
Journalists explained how Social Security works and how to fix it? That must've been some weekly in Arkansas, because it certainly wasn't in the New York Times. If there's a public policy issue that the press has done a worse job on in the last decade than Social Security, then I don't know what it is. The media's attacks on the Bush plan with a big assist from Democrats while not demanding anything alternative from the Democrats themselves just means that Social Security entitlements will be much tougher and painful to fix when even the politicians can't ignore the problem anymore.
If you thought Hollywood and the music industry were enamored of giving themselves awards, the news media could almost put them to shame -- Polks, Pulitzers, Peabodys, National Journalism Awards, National Magazine Awards, Society for News Design (and this doesn't include city and state-level awards usually handed out). It can be hard to stay humble during awards season, but journalists should take note, because they need humility more than most.