My buddy, Howard, just retired from the journalism biz. I remember someone asked him how long he'd been writing and he thought a moment and said, "Since right at the first grade." And, given he's got two Pulitzers to his name for public service journalism, you gotta believe he knows a little bit about the subject.
But see, that's where you'd be wrong. Howard's laboring under the misapprehension that journalism is supposed to serve the public and protect its interests. That the Fourth Estate is a citizen's check against the other three branches of government, all of which need the open and transparent scrutiny of the press to ensure the survival of our nation's charter. Heady stuff, eh? Hell, Howard's so out of touch he thinks the responsibility of a free press is nothing short of a constitutional right – WOW, just how out of touch can one guy be?
The worst thing about having a friend like him is that you start to believe the same kinds of things he does. But only for 30 or 40 years, or so. Right up to this morning when I realized how out of touch I have become as a result of listening to Howard. Because this morning I read CNN.com, then Fox.com, then MSNBC.com – for content.
What the hell was I thinking?
There were three stories about Rush Limbaugh, two about Sarah Palin, one about Jessica Simpson and not one damn thing about Katrina victims (still waiting, still forgotten about), emergency aid to food banks (they're feeding more people now but with fewer resources), or reallocating resources from foreign to domestic aid (might want to take care of our own people for a change, just a thought).
Limbaugh is a gratuitous gasbag - why the national media gives him any space at all is a mystery to me given he is a RADIO ENTERTAINER. His job is to get more listeners not solve any of the deeply troubling issues facing our nation. He's not concerned about the gross domestic product, he's concerned about the Arbitron Radio Ratings.
The consolation prize to CNN.com running two "front page" stories about Limbaugh is that both were below a hard-hitting piece about the Jessica Simpson "weight controversy". Well, that's a relief. For a second I was concerned that electronic journalism had lost its rudder but I see the ship is well under way and heading full speed into Bligh's Banal Reef.
And speaking of gasbags and the banal, Sarah Palin doesn't have sufficient gravitas to even qualify as a gasbag. The problems facing our nation are not going to be solved by sound-bite leadership, especially from those whose obvious, if unstated intention, is to elevate themselves far beyond both their own competence or potential. When the media follows her every move they endorse the Palin Peter Principle of Politics.
Over 11 million people are unemployed and the major news sites are covering whether Sarah "I can see Russia from here" Palin is angling a new committee for support in a 2012 run at the Presidency? Really? Seriously, that's the highest and best use of your "news hole"?
My normal admonition is that the list of insufficiencies isn't endless but it is impressive. But the list is clearly long enough that it should at least push the Simpsons, Limbaughs and Palins off the home pages of "serious" new sites. I'm just saying that if you want people to take you seriously, you need to act seriously – or at the very least, responsibly.
So, I'm out. I'm stepping off. I'm buying a production grade camera for Indie and documentary work and I'm stepping the hell off. I'm going to make my little movies and let the next-gen step up. Call me back when the rest of the country gets as serious as Obama.
Meanwhile, my home page is going to rotate between the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and IMDB Pro. Yeah, Hollywood is a world of fantasy and banality. But at least the trades don't pretend it's something else.
Howard, you're on your own!