David Rosman Columbia, MO – Kennedy. The name alone congers images of grandeur, pomp, tragedy and, of course, politics. This time Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) almost made the news because he was angry. The problem is that the press is ignoring him and the cause of his anger.
From Spiro Agnew and moving forward through the years, most politicians were angered because of negative publicity. Or too much publicity. Not Kennedy.
On the floor of the House on March 10, the representative was angered, and rightfully so, about the lack of coverage of the first debate in the House concerning the war in Afghanistan since the invasion. In eight years, our lawmakers have not once debated whether the United States should be a military presence in that country.
Kennedy said, no yelled at the press for the same thing I have written about in the recent past – The press is not covering meaningful and important news. Marketing and the number of readers, viewers, listeners and Internet clicks are more important. It is about money, not the news.
On Thursday, March 11, ABC morning news program spent twice the time on the death of Cory Haims, child actor and who turned to drugs, than they did on any other subject of the day in its hourly summary. CNN’s listed stories under “U.S.” news concerning weight versus Hollywood, the ten best video games for your iPhone (I guess my Mobile PC enabled phone does not count) and who is the richest person on the planet. Little, if anything, was said about Kennedy’s outrage. USAToday did not cover the story. It was like it never happened.
I believe that journalism schools must teach the understanding of the future of the industry, whether ink or pixel. That journalistsand news media must maintain integrity and focus on what is important. Let the “fluff news” outlets handle the rest.
We have spent more time discussing the sex life of Tiger Woods and than the growing gang problems and sex trade in smaller communities throughout the U.S.
We spend more time on what is the new fashions for the fall than we do on the fall of a business giant like AIG and how its failure will affect the individual watching, listening or reading.
We spend more time speaking of chronic obesity of our children than speaking of the solutions, the need to properly fund our education system, requiring physical education programs along with math, science and poetry, and paying K-12 teachers the salary they deserve.
We spend more time discussing the first practice of the season for the local football or baseball team than we do on the practice of drug sales on school campuses.
We spend more time… Need I go on?
I agree with Kennedy, our news media needs to tell us what our government is doing right, what it is doing wrong and how it can be fixed. Not that representative so-and-so cheated at golf. If that member of Congress hired an illegal domestic employee when he voted on anti-immigration legislation, that is important. It is a question of integrity.
Kennedy’s rampage was justified and he has opened the door for a much-needed self-examination of the news industry as a whole. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? How do we fix it?
Of all of the blogs and online commentary I read concerning the failure of the news industry, especially newspapers, few speak to the failure of the industry to do its job, in-depth stories, investigative reporting and providing analysis of political and civil events that affect our citizens. Is the American public really looking for a 140-character Twitter news release?
Nietzsche said that the ultimate in human stupidity is forgetting what we were doing in the first place. As journalist, we have forgotten what we are supposed to do. As journalists, we need to re-examine what our job really is.
Jim Willis, author of “Mind of a Journalist” (Sage Press, 2010) reminds his readers that journalists got into this business is because of “a desire to contribute to society – to right the wrongs – to make things better.” (p.4) Can we honestly say that the news media is still accomplishing that end?
Kennedy was right. Journalists, heal thy self.
David Rosman is a award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com.