Monday, January 13, 2014

The Real Cost Of Quality Journalism

As another week begins, in the wake of another awards show last night, we thought about some of our colleagues in the media who really deserve awards, but won't likely ever get the kind of recognition you may have seen featured at the Golden Globes last night.

It's not easy being a journalist today, either in the U.S. or abroad. The wars abroad, especially the civil war in Syria, killed 70 journalists last year. That number doesn't even include those journalists jailed for simply doing their jobs, in places like Egypt. Domestically, Congress is still so bogged down with Republican obstructionism even K Street lobbyists are looking for side jobs. Both corporate media and politicians are also disgustingly beholden to ideological zealots like the Koch Brothers, making corruption in both politics and private business harder than ever for journalists to uncover.

If it were strictly up to the media minders at places like Fox, or some of the other right-wing media outlets, they'd keep the general public buried in nonsense, like the new book by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, or the latest hickup in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act - and not the serious corruption involved in two very major stories over the last week.

That's why we're incredibly grateful to ethical local journalists, and the ethical national journalists that followed the lead of the local reporters on both "Bridgegate" - the ongoing corruption scandal of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie - and the ongoing chemical disaster in West Virginia that's kept 300,000 Americans without any clean, useable water for nearly a week.

Gov. Christie's scandal, as we noted twice last week, is not only terrifying, politically. It's also nearly impossible to believe he didn't have some knowledge of what was going on. What should terrify Republicans even more is that as flawed as Christie's corruption scandal may show him to be, he is still considered the leading candidate for the Republican Party in the 2016 presidential race.

A similar kind of corruption has also become evident in the massive chemical spill in West Virginia. West Virginia officials knew about the very real danger of the coal mining chemicals Freedom Industries corporation was storing right next to the river that supplies drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians, yet they did nothing. Both local and national media outlets have asked the same very valid question: Why wasn't there a plan - and why wasn't West Virginia better prepared for such a spill?

That kind of hidden disaster, by the way, is the exact reason so many Nebraskans have absolutely no desire to have the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline driven through Nebraska - a fact we've made clear multiple times before. When - and it will be 'when' and not 'if' - that pipeline has a leak, it could poison the primary water source for hundreds of thousands of Americans throughout the Midwest, including the farmers who feed the millions of Americans across the nation.

Neither of these very real scandals would have been exposed without the efforts of quality journalists, who likely won't be featured on a major televised awards show anytime soon.

So later today, when one corporate media website or another tries to gin up interest or clicks hyping some fake fight between celebrities at the Golden Globes, or jumping up and down about the latest minor problem with Obamacare, remember who showed you the real scandals this past week. Then buy a copy of your local newspaper, or pay that small fee to browse your favorite news outlet online, willingly.

The cost of not paying real journalists is being buried in lies by those who are corrupt.

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