Open your eyes folks; we have a good media

You know what I can’t stand? It’s people who complain about the press every time the news doesn’t make them happy. People who complain that the press is unfair and biased against their particular viewpoint. People who would complain about the press rather than do anything about it, which takes more mental effort than that required for reading the morning paper.

IT+>That’swhat I can’t stand.

Every time the press does something unpatriotic, like report too extensively on a hostage-taking or scrutinize every minute mistake of a president under fire, people get all huffy and say the press is not being a team player. The insidious, ignorant, blood-sniffing, sensationalist pack of newspeople is knocking another pillar out from under democracy in their blind persuit of sexy material.

The image has become popular of the craven reporter, sneaking wimpishly under the cocktail table to scribble down Senator Jones’ extramarital misdeeds.

But first of all, when has any of us stopped reading about the sleazy side of political (and, now, religious) life. We slobber all over the Inc. column in the Tribune and then call it trash. And crises involving violence have always been the favorite national pastime, producing something akin to gaper’s block on front pages and nightly newscasts everywhere.

We are a morbid, voyeuristic lot, so settled into the good life produced by America—physical and psychological safety—that we must take our shocks second hand. We get our fix, then after we’ve been satisfied, our obnoxious American holier-than-thou attitude kicks back in and we say “if only the press would give us real information and analysis.”

But part of the press does provide real information and analysis. Public television airs an hour-long newscast which is leaps ahead of the networks in thoughtful coverage. Because it is largely analysis, it must be supplemented by a good newspaper such as The New York Times. Public radio has news and analysis throughout the day. There are too many popular magazines to mention, that cover politics from all perspectives, and there are several well-written political journals for those who have the time and money to use them. Libraries usually have more printed material than even a news junkie could stand.

The way I see it, the American press works in a democratic, capitalistic framework, which is as it should be (does anyone disagree?). It is democratic because it produces what the majority wants. If newspapers stopped selling advertisements and television news broadcasts stopped selling commercials, both would quickly change the substance of the news they deliver. In addition, significant minorities are also satisfied by the specialized press—the various magazines, newsletters and broadcasts aimed at left and right wingers, intellectuals, environmentalists—you name it.

The press is capitalistic for precisely the same reason. It responds to demand because it is in business. The alternative in a capitalistic society is the BBC.

So, for anyone who doesn’t like the press, and there seems to be a lot of people who don’t these days, I have one thing to say. If you don’t like what you’re getting from CBS and The Chicago Tribune, exercise your democratic, capitalistic rights, get your lazy American righteousness off the easy chair and start reading and watching what you say you want. If there are enough of you out there, the more popular press will change. If there aren’t enough, then at least you will be satisfied with the quality of information you receive.

Sadly, we must take the good of a free press with the bad of its response to our popular appetites. A poor quality mass media has a lot to do with the fact that we are a capitalistic democracy, but I guess we just have to take our lumps to keep our sugar.