While Ted Koppel's op-ed article in Sunday's Washington Post wasn't on the list, I found it rounded out this week's reading quite nicely. In his article, Koppel remembers a time when television news was objective and honest, when journalists reported the true state of affairs, and when the fourth estate, as intended, kept an unbiased, watchful eye over government activities. Of course that was also before networks figured out news could generate revenue. I guess they decided churning a profit was more important than churning the truth. I'm not going to lump all of today's journalists into one group as Koppel did, but his opinions are well-founded for a good number of them.
The issue at hand, however, is not what happened 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. The issue at hand is how we, as a participatory culture, combat what journalism has become. The current state of dominant news media consists of charismatic personalities with open wallets. While the righties head for the bank, the lefties head for MSNBC. I love Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, but I also know which side they're pulling for, and I shouldn't.
Ted Koppel also states in his article, "The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible." If that is true, we are seriously doomed, and on many, many levels. However, Boler gives me hope. The fact that we are aware gives me hope, and the fact that she and others have put theories into place gives me hope. The question now is how to put these theories into action. Collectively how can we establish a near equivalent to the objective honesty that once existed? How can we as a participatory culture realize and report the truth?
Boler suggests it must come from a grassroots movement where, "All are interested in challenging and intervening in dominant media structures, and in cutting across modes of distribution with aims of resisting the messages and form of dominant media".
So my question again, how do we do this? Boler provides a list of possibilities, but how do we enlist the trust of the masses? More importantly, how do we enlist the trust of each other? It takes support and it takes money. We have already established that honest news doesn't generate revenue. How long before we see ourselves in the mirror of our opposition?
Perhaps my once youthful optimism has been tainted by the practices of everyday life. My hopes of "changing the world" have been reduced to hopes of making changes in my own life. But even as I succumb to the realities of my culture, I have not given in to its ignorance.
On some level I do still have hope that the American people will wake up to the fact that the only objective of dominant news media is partisan perception, in some cases outright dishonesty. The youth of our nation are already clued in to this fact. Thankfully they are the future of this great country. At the same time, it saddens me that parody and satire are the preferred media portals for these same individuals. In retrospect, I guess the whole situation is funny in a sad sort of way.
If the internet is the answer to redeeming the fourth estate, I say hoorah for the good guys. But as Boler suggests, the term itself may be apt for a new definition. Perhaps one that includes the watchful eye of the people. If the government knows we as a people are watching them and reporting the real facts, perhaps then we can get back to the fabric that makes America a great nation.