A prominent Russian reporter famous for well-documented stories criticizing her government was recently assassinated. Her courage and commitment to the highest purposes of journalism was admirable. And the fact that she was murdered for doing her job reminds us not to take a free press for granted.
More than ever, we need a vigorous press to ferret out and publish "all the news that's fit to print" and to do so "without fear or favor." Unfortunately, the willingness and ability of the press to tell us what we need to know has been seriously threatened by investor groups looting venerable newspapers in search of greater shareholder value.
Last year, the Knight-Ridder chain of newspapers (including the largest papers in Philadelphia, Miami, Minneapolis and San Jose) were sold off in pieces. The Tribune Company (owner of 25 television stations and 11 daily newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the leading papers in Chicago, Baltimore and Orlando) is currently poised to auction off its media assets.
Just last week, the Tribune effectively fired the very courageous publisher of the Times after he refused to make drastic newsroom cuts he thought would prevent the paper from giving readers the coverage they deserved.
Meanwhile, the news media, especially TV, seems even more dominated by a tabloidesque emphasis on lurid stories rather than important ones and political coverage designed to produce more heat than light. The great bias of the new corporate culture is not political ideology but profits. Not enlightenment but entertainment.
The big losers are a public too disdainful of journalists and too blinded by partisan perspectives to care. There is much to criticize about modern journalism, but despite the unremitting claims of bias by both liberal and conservative ideologues who label anyone who says things they don't like or don't agree with as a fool or enemy, we have the best journalism in the world. But all that is in jeopardy.
We don't shoot journalists in this country, but we are killing journalism.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.