I have enjoyed many an hour reading newspapers, but I have also been enormously frustrated over the years. I don’t wish to malign the professionalism of newspapermen, but they have a remarkably narrow viewpoint, and it shows. I once asked my Colombian boyfriend his impression of America. He replied “It’s so peaceful here.” I asked him to explain. He pointed to the umpteenth rehash of the shootings at Columbine High, which had been covered nonstop for two or three weeks. “In Colombia, that story wouldn’t last four hours; we’d have another bombing, shooting, kidnapping, or assassination.” By reciting stock phrases about”industrialized nations,” the media avoids ever noticing that there places in the world far more violent than the United States.
I would turn to the paper for coverage of an event where I had been – for example, a gay pride parade. The coverage would be snotty, and would mention only the half-dozen drag and leather queens, not the thousand participants who would have been inconspicuous in any shopping mall.
I come from Pittsburgh, which had a big “stadium tax” proposition some years back. All the media and all the corporate bigwigs were behind it. The corporations threw $6 million into a glitzy no-holds-barred campaign, which was slavishly covered. Meanwhile, the opposition had a budget of less than $50,000, a few allies on talk radio, and enormous grassroots support. The proposition was slaughtered, by a margin of two to one. You would think the media would be all over us, wanting to find out what had happened. Nope. Grassroots people don’t buy enough ad space to matter. Our research was careful, accurate, and thoughtful. The media chose instead to cover inaccurate speculation emitted by CMU at the behest of the sports teams as if it were factual.
People turn to the internet because they want more information than the media are willing to give. People want to read the stuff that isn’t supported by powerful corporate interests. They want to read about today’s financial crisis, but not from the folks who created that crisis, who have a vested interest in obfuscating the issues. Today’s newspapers are not providing those alternative viewpoints; they are too wed to their corporate advertisers, who usually want more corporate welfare. Thomas Jefferson would rather have newspapers and no government than government and no newspapers; r certainly agree, but newspapers which are mere apologists for the government might as well not exist, for all the good they do. Press releases make a poor substitute for news.