Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Biting The Hand That Feeds Me

I have found myself once again, criticizing a part of the newspaper industry for failing in its mission. Since I earn my living by supplying some of the equipment that connects the printing press with the loading dock to these purported purveyors of information, I can't help but wonder if my behavior is somewhat counter-productive. 

In point of fact however, I care a great deal about the industry that I have been a part of now for more than 30 years. Not only do I have an abiding (and purely selfish) desire to see it survive, if not thrive as it has in the past ( for at least another 15-20 years anyway); I have a great deal of respect for many of the people that I have met and worked with over that period. Maybe that's why I find these almost constant examples of abuse of basic journalistic principles so disturbing.
  • News is news, and opinion is opinion; and editors at newspapers are the gatekeepers to insure that it remains that way.
  • Editorial opinion is the right of a newspaper owner and editor, but like all rights, it should be tempered by limits. Loose facts and slanted reporting are well outside of those limits.
  • A newspaper (and its owner) are supposed to serve the community, not the other way around.
  • A newspaper is supposed to be the watchdog of politics, not a player in it nor manipulator of it.
Lest anyone think that I am being in any way courageous or heroic with voicing such comments, let me quickly reassure you that I am anything but. First, the readership of this blog is not so great that I need be concerned about my impact on world events, nor lose a night's sleep over becoming the target of some mad stalker. (In point of fact, I believe that my readers are mostly friends and family, with a few "sympathy" readers who plod through my meanderings in a benighted sense of guilt for some past misdeeds of their own.) The fact that my opinion carries but a tiny fraction of the weight that my shoes do every day therefore reassures me of my safety and provides a sense of well-being.

You might begin to wonder whether my cowardice therefore explains why I am mentioning no specifics in this case that has drawn my current ire. The reasons that I am stating for not doing so are two-fold however:
  1. The problem is symptomatic of the entire industry these days to some extent. Pointing out one more specific example serves no purpose except to bring a cult of personality into the conversation.
  2. I am an abject coward with just barely enough common sense to refuse to insult my customers too much or in particular before I attempt to do further business with them (see, I admitted it).
Besides, those in my local area have been recently inundated with these "facts" and "stories" and know them too well. Those of you who are not will probably be grateful that I will not bore you with the local nonsense, nor dignify these stories by repeating them.

In an industry consumed by self-congratulation and awards handed out by the score within their peer group, perhaps newspapers should think about returning to the aspirations that they seem to hold so dear. Perhaps then, the term "journalistic integrity" would not become a the joke that it seems to be in the present, nor a term capable only of being applied in the historical sense. The truth of the matter is that there aren't many reporters left in the newspaper world (or anywhere else). You would think that those still gainfully employed as such might want to do a better job. You would think that the same could be said of their editors and owners. As for the current local situation in my most recent of hometowns, let me finish by saying this:

"Be careful about throwing stones at other kids when you live in the "Glass City". The damage done can be horrendous, and the breakage may injure more than those you desire."


7 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Tim,

Biting the hand that feeds you can only be plausibly pulled off by the person being fed, as the rest of do not have the intimate knowledge to do it ourselves.

Kinda like me picking on the loco politicos, I know and see more than the average citizen and I have to bring some of my inside knowledge outside, in a failing attempt to stop going crazy in my silence.

Knock yourself out buddy, but don't expect much more than some temporary self-induced therapeutic relief. . .

Tim Higgins said...

HT,

I think that your insight on insider perspective is right on the money. The illusion of biting my own hand however has caused me to lose my appetite.

As to blog posting as therapy, I will defer to the expert in such things.

Ben said...

well written.

off the subject, i hope this - "Not only do I have an abiding (and purely selfish) desire to see it survive, if not thrive as it has in the past ( for at least another 15-20 years anyway)"

comes to be. Sometimes I am not so sure about the future of print newspapers.

Tim Higgins said...

Ben,

I have long since reconciled myself to selling "anvils and horseshoes" in an automobile world; but believe that the printed page will survive for a while yet (as will I with luck). Which one of us ends his existence first is probably pretty much a coin flip.

On the other hand, I am working on my own obsolesence by writing a blog...

Thanks for the praise by the way, though I have to point out that as a reader here your guilty conscience does get called into question. :-)

Roland Hansen said...

Tim,
I admire and respect a person who expresses the truth regardless of the consequences. You have more than earned my respect.
But then again, what do I know? I am so oblivious to all that is around me. Ignorance is bliss.

Tim Higgins said...

Roland,

I am always willing to accept undeserved credit, so thank you. I have to say though that I too probably have a major case of "clueless", as my checkered career shows.

Perhaps both of us would do better to look up the definition to the term "Elightened Self-Interest".

Roland Hansen said...

Tim,
I take all the credit I can get - Visa, Mastercard, American Express, whatever.