Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's A Good Thing This Judge Wasn't Around In The Fifteenth Century

So, who is permitted to discover and disseminate truth? According to a judge in Oregon, only “real journalists” accredited by him may do so.

Crystal Cox is a self described “investigative blogger.” She specializes in the investigation of investment firm practices – a subject not typically covered in journalism school.

One firm she investigated sued her. The judge in that case ruled that she was not entitled to protections normally accorded journalists because, “Although the defendant is a self-proclaimed ‘investigative blogger’ and defines herself as ‘media,’ the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law in the first instance.”

She’d be okay if she were a pamphleteer?

His definition of a journalist is completely arbitrary. He could just as easily have defined a journalist as someone publishes on clay tablets.

Here’s the problem. The mainstream media are often disinterested in the sort of stories that Crystal Cox and other bloggers pursue. There are a number of reasons of this. Many are simply disinterested in information that conflicts with their political prejudices. This is why most “real” journalists persist in blaming George W. Bush for the recession even though the definitive investigation into the subject, “Reckless Endangerment,” by New York Times business reporter Gretchen Morgenson tells a radically different tale.

Another problem is that the mass media publish stories interesting to the masses. That’s why we know so much more about Lindsey Lohan (whoever that is) than we know about the shady accounting practices of Goldman Sachs that contributed to the Enron debacle.

 Another is that reporters are not terribly bright. That’s not to say that they’re unintelligent. It’s just that journalism school does not prepare them to understand fraudulent accounting practices, the geology and chemistry of oil and gas hydraulic fracturing,  atmospheric physics, genetically modified crops, nuclear engineering, or any of the other subjects that they end up writing about.

In 2004, just before the election, real journalists at CBS News produced memos proving that President Bush was frequently AWOL from his Air National Guard duties during the Vietnam War. The memos were accepted as authentic by the mainstream news media, but were exposed as crude forgeries by more knowledgeable bloggers.

Here’s how smart you have to be before you can qualify as a “real” journalist. Recently, an Associated Press story, that passed inspection from AP’s editors, proof readers and fact checkers, reported that fully one half of all Americans earn less than the median income.

You read that right. And if you understood how stupid that is, then you’re probably not a journalist.

“Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans -- nearly 1 in 2 -- have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income,” according to the AP’s Hope Yen. “Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold -- roughly $45,000 for a family of four.”

According to the last US census, the median income in the US is $45,000.

Not only did this pass the AP’s standards, but it was widely printed in newspapers and made it into broadcast news.

This is precisely why bloggers such as Crystal Cox are essential. Many have the expertise to authoritatively investigate issues opaque to “real journalists.” I consult law blogs to help me understand court decisions. For energy issues, I avoid the mainstream news and visit blogs written by engineers and executives in the field. The same goes for economics. Few journalists possess even a glimmer of economic comprehension, which is why there was so much journalistic celebration when the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6% last month. This was mostly due to a shrinking labor force rather than an uptick in economic activity.

You wouldn’t know it to read the papers, but many climate scientists disagree with Al Gore.

The blog is the modern day equivalent of Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press. It liberates information from the gatekeepers who don’t share information they don’t like, don’t understand, or don’t think that enough of their readers care about. Mainstream journalists may be celebrating that judge’s decision, but their victory is temporary. The ruling with either be overturned or the laws will be updated.

This is the 21st century. Pamphlets are 18th century.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

crystal cox is not the voice of truth you make her out to be.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

If truthfulness were a prerequisite for exercising First Amendment rights, the The New York Times would have to shut down its printing presses. The commentary was not on Crystal Cox's veracity, but on that judge's limitations upon free speech.

11:28 AM  

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