Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On Second Thought…

We love to complain about “The Media”, but what would happen if there were no journalists and no press coverage? After all, there’s a reason why independent journalists are at the top of government target lists in totalitarian regimes (see; Russia, Zimbabwe, China, etc.). Recently, I worked on a successful anti-recall campaign in a rural New England town, just outside the suburban ring of both Boston and Providence. This geography means that the community in question falls “into the cracks” when it comes to newspaper coverage.

Officially, the town is covered by three dailies (and a monthly shopper). But the reality is that it is too far from the center of each paper’s gravity to get much daily coverage. The journalists at the three papers, all skilled and conscientious, just didn’t have the time to make covering this town a high enough priority to matter. The result of this diminished scrutiny on the local body politic was interesting. Some folks saw an opportunity to cut governmental and political corners that they might not have if the possibility of daily scrutiny was higher. The caliber of political discourse and the degree of accuracy in town politics declined as well, while the local police department was outwardly political in a way that I had never come close to seeing before. And almost all of this went uncovered, falling like a tree in the forest.

So complain if you will – and there’s plenty to question – but a brief foray into a world without (much) media scrutiny reminded me of Churchill’s wry defense of democracy – it has it’s drawbacks, but it’s better than the alternatives.

While we’re here, a couple things worth reading – in “The Media”:

- Christoper Hutchens considers the role of his writings in the decision of a young soldier to enlist – and that soldier’s death in Iraq.

- The New York Times makes the case for the rule of law as central to the American Ideal.

- The Providence Journal’s Froma Harrop exposes the tawdry “value proposition” of the Spears Family Business.

- An extreme rarity: a thoughtful, reasoned piece about immigration.

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