Earlier this week I went to a terrific gala put on by the Wild Earth Guardians, which, despite its name, is not a cross between Whole Foods and the Guardian Angels, but rather a dynamic and dedicated environmental outfit doing important work on behalf of the wild things (in which there is salvation, remember).
The guest speaker was Joel Sartore. If you haven't seen his work, pick up the current issue of National Geographic. His photos accompany a clear and powerful article on the reality of the oil spill in the Gulf. If you don't want to read the story (which is the clearest, best piece as I've read on this disaster), just look at Joel's pictures.
Then a couple of days later I got an email from Joel. He was commenting on the state of journalism today, saying that given the kind of reporting we were getting, we were likely to get the kind of government we didn't want.
Turns out he was reading my mind.
I've been thinking about the relationship between what you deserve and what you get, triggered by thoughts of union-management relations in the old days.
In business, the old saw was, companies get the unions they deserve.
The classic example was the old days in the auto industry, when Henry Ford hired spies to watch men on the assembly line. Laughing on the line was an offense that would get you fired. Trying to organize a union, well, who knows the punishment for that!
There were pitched battles, physical confrontations, between workers who wanted to organize and strike, and hired goons whose job was to beat them into submission.
Any wonder that, when there finally was a union in the auto industry, relations between management and labor were confrontational.
The companies got the unions they deserved.
Today, the media have decided that Americans don't read, won't read.
They've concluded that all we really want is a steady diet of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and celebrity rehab.
Advertisers have decided that print is dead. Journalism schools have concluded that old-school journalism is, well, old-school. Which is another way of saying, no longer relevant.
So don't be surprised, when the polls close on Election Day, if we've elected a crop of wing nuts and bozos to the highest offices of the land.
Of course, the truth is, there is still great journalism being done.
Less and less, but more than gets credited to the U.S. journalism account.
Wanna make a difference? Wanna take a stand? Wanna stand for something that can make a difference?
Go to your local news stand.
Buy $40 or $50 worth of serious journalism.
Pick up The New Republic, National Geographic, The Nation. If you haven't read Time or Newsweek in a while, give it a go, see what you learn! Pick up The New York Review of Books--it won't hurt you, I promise.
Sit down and actually read about what's going on in your country.
Look for articles that name names, that give credit where results are being forged, and reveal hypocrisy where it's being perpetrated.
When you find a magazine or publication you haven't read before, but you like, make a real stand: Subscribe!
Get serious about the future of America--before America's future turns into a joke.
Remember, we're likely to get the country we deserve. Based at least in part on the journalism we support.
All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb