Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Hopeful Look Forward

     Now and then, the young do learn from the errors of their elders. Consider this example:

     (Courtesy of the incomparable Charles Hill.)

     Hilde Lysiak, if you’ve never before encountered her name, is quite an accomplished young woman. She’s a heroine of mine, despite her youth, for the reason set out so clearly in the tweet above: She maintains that a reporter is one who reports the news, nothing else.

     There aren’t many genuine reporters these days. They all seem to want to be something more – call ‘em “influencers” – but to maintain the facade of “objectivity” that once went with the occupational title of “reporter.”

     As others have said in their own idioms, one Hilde Lysiak is enough to renew the spirit of hope crushed by a thousand headphone-wearing, smartphone-addicted teen layabouts and whiners. But this is mostly prefatory.

     I’ve cited this valuable article more than once. Its author was a colleague of mine, back when. A fine, courteous, Christian gentleman was he. More to the point, he was virtually alone in noting that “journalism” in the age of the national broadcast network – today we must include the many cable networks as well – had morphed into something untrustworthy. Upon first encountering his opinion, I resolved to investigate the genesis of the thing.

     I concluded that much of the disease of contemporary journalism can be traced to the Twentieth Century’s several wars, especially World Wars I and II. Those wars had the effect of eclipsing all other events in significance to the average news-consumer. (They also had the effect of centralizing virtually all political power in Washington, D.C., but you already knew that.) “The news” was war news, and damned little of anything else. Certainly local events such as Hilde Lysiak has reported them since 2014 didn’t pose much competition.

     Prior to the Spanish-American War, major news conglomerates were unknown. That war, the first of the “big” wars in which the United States was involved, was the horse the Hearst newspapers rode to national prominence – and dominance. As the years passed, “the news” steadily became less about local and more about things of national significance. The national audience became the audience to which the “journalist” directed his efforts.

     It’s been said with some justice that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. This is just as true for the news industry, with the proviso that he whose face is to appear on the television screen can’t afford to be too unsightly. As “the news” grew ever more national, the requirements laid upon the purveyor of “the news” approached those of the entertainer ever more closely.

     Add to the above that as “the news” became ever more about national developments, the news-makers became ever more the cadre of officeholders in the nation’s capital. For many reasons, such persons must limit the access others have to them. That added a critical skill to the “journalist’s” bag: he had to be able to find a way through the barriers between the common citizen and the federal official. Unfortunately, there’s a serious downside: access is nearly always accomplished through partisan sycophancy.

     In this year of Our Lord 2019, local news organs – more exactly, news media that concentrate on local and state-level developments – have all but died off completely. What remain of them are mainly shopping circulars such as Yankee Trader and Pennysaver News. Mind you, those organs perform a function of modest importance, but they’re not full-blooded replacements for the papers that once chronicled the events that directly affect one’s neighborhood, village, county, and state.

     But just as “Trees do not grow to the sky” (Baron Philippe de Rothschild), neither does any trend last forever. A counter-trend of citizen distrust in “the news” has been in progress for some years and seems to be rising close to a breakthrough level. The opportunity this presents for young, sincere reporters such as Hilde Lysiak “should” be “obvious.”

     Whether we will see a renaissance in locally focused news media is as yet unclear. What is clear is that the national news media are losing credibility, and with it the loyalty of the private news-consumer. Whether the opportunities created by their gradual slide from grace will be exploited, and by whom, we have yet to see. But in these United States it’s a rare thing for a demand not to evoke a supply...and it seems to these old eyes that there’s a demand for actual reporting, of the sort to which Hilde Lysiak has committed herself. At any rate, we can hope.


Pascal said...

If she and those like her can avoid the lure of a big payoff by corporate news, you are correct. Hopefully that sort will not be harmed by the other means such powers have to silence those who don't go along to get along.

Col. B. Bunny said...

It is not called "Foxes News Network" for nothing.