Rx for Bringing American Journalists Back to Life

How to Revive “Freedom of the Press”

As we move into 2021, my hope is that we can restore the prestige and greatness of American journalism.

Why am I concerned?

Political reporters used to be the envy of the journalistic world. When Woodward and Bernstein uncovered the Watergate Scandal, there was no question that American journalism was the “hope” for America.

No matter what our government and elected officials “tried” to get away with — and trust me — they try and get away with a lot, our national journalists would come to our rescue.

But that hope, that last line of defense for democracy is gone. Political reporters in the United States have been reduced to gossip columnists and the lines between news and talk shows no longer exists. Programs like “The Five”, “Rachel Maddow” and “Tucker Carlson” are exactly the same as the news programs and because there is no line — the people are deeply confused about who to believe.

How did this happen?

For one, it has to do with the way that politics is now covered in America. Political reporting and coverage is just “gossip” and devoid of any real news.

Here’s an example of this:

In the 2020 Democratic Debate in Nevada, moderator Lester Holt started the debate with this question:

This is a “gossip” question.

Why does Mr. Holt need to ask Senator Sanders about Mayor Bloomberg? Does he not know he’s standing on the stage? This is a subtle and underhanded way of making the debate a “gossip” show and not a national debate for Democratic nominee for President.

In the interests of fairness, let’s take a look back at how the 2016 Republican Primary Debates began in Cleveland.

Brett Baier, Fox News correspondent started the entire debate with this question:

Here again, a “gossip” question.

In both cases, the questions were unnecessary. They were written purely for gossip purposes, the answers or the reactions have no impact on the American people — it’s all just a fabricated gossip show.

In Lester Holt’s case, it is entirely unclear what his question is asking? Is he asking Senator Sanders how he proposes to campaign against Mr. Trump? Or is he asking why he doesn’t like Mayor Bloomberg? Regardless of the true hidden meaning of Mr. Holt’s question, it’s obvious that it’s unclear, confusing and serves only one purpose — create gossip and controversy.

In the case of Mr. Baier, he started the whole Republican Primary Debate circuit as a reality talk-show, where Donald Trump was cast as the villain of the Republican Party against the rest of the field. In essence, Mr. Baier made Donald Trump the only name voters could identify with and dismissed the rest of the field with one question.

If both reporters had skipped over their “gossip” questions and had just gone directly to hard hitting questions, the “people” would start to learn more about their elected officials.

It’s extremely important for reporters to resist the urge to ask for a “reaction” from elected officials. If our elected leaders are unaware of what their colleagues are doing — that is better for the American people. The press should seize upon the reality that our elected officials have stopped communicating with one another and are using the media as a go-between, passing rumor and innuendo in a quasi-soap opera on the Hill.

If reporters can avoid “gossip” and rumor as the genesis of story ideas — this will put our elected leaders in a precarious position. They will have to start doing their job, or else reporters will expose them for sitting around and collecting a paycheck for no work.

Whether President Trump’s warning of fake news alarmed you or not — this is what he means by “fake.” Reporters that rely heavily on “react” stories and “gossip journalism.”

Reporters should leave those stories and videos for YouTubers. Real American Journalists should strive to only cover factual news — what an elected official says, “hardly qualifies,” as factual news.

Imagine, if Woodward and Bernstein reported what the White House officials were saying to them as “fact?”

The American people would never have learned about the Watergate break-in and subsequent government cover-up.

Why then do reporters take what elected officials and their surrogates say as “fact” today? Times have not changed, every single elected official if left unaccountable and unchecked is inherently corrupt. Right now, there is zero accountability for our elected officials, from D.C. to the local statehouses in all 50 states.

The American people rely heavily on the power and freedom of the press, and they have let us down for the last 40 years. It’s time to reawaken the power of the Press. And put our elected officials on notice, that reporters are no longer going to “fall” for your tricks and “gossip.”

From 1999–2015, comedian Jon Stewart hosted the nightly show The Daily Show on Comedy Central, and although he admits he was never a journalist, his program was a nightly media critique.

Journalists didn’t heed the warnings then, and they have abandoned the integrity of journalism now. The only way for the power of the press to re-emerge is to avoid the salacious inclination to cover gossip and rumor.

It’s hard to do — but that’s the whole point.

Personalities like Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly make it difficult for reporters to cling to journalistic integrity, when these two figures have made millions of dollars trampling all over the ethics of journalism.

What’s the point? Reporters need to make a living too?

I urge and implore journalists to ask themselves — do you want to be a Rivera or O’Reilly or do you want to be a Woodward or Bernstein? I would hope the answer is easy.

If reporters had followed the integrity trail and avoided the “gossip” story, someone might have broken the “Lolita Express” story decades ago, while the rumor and “gossip” surrounding then President Clinton was dominating the airwaves. The real story was never the Starr investigation. That was just pure salacious gossip, and the media abandoned all integrity by destroying the psyche of a young American woman.

If reporters had followed the integrity trail and avoided the “gossip” story, there is still hope that a reporter will uncover the true story behind President Trump and his convicted attorney Michael Cohen.

There was no story behind the russia rumors, there was no story behind the Steele Dossier, there simply was no story. Just “gossip” and rumors.

For real journalists and not “gossip journalists” there is a real story behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, but “we the people” will never know because these three elected officials have figured out how to completely manipulate reporters.

Here’s my Rx for clean journalism:

  1. Do not create “react” stories — getting a quote from one party and asking them to react to the quote.
  2. Do not “initiate” a story by passing notes, gossip or rumors and asking for their opinion.
  3. File Open Records requests weekly to the various bodies of government related to discussions, negotiations and any and all records related to the American people’s money and how it is being spent by Washington and local statehouses.

We have a run-off election in Georgia in January, it would help the country to know who these candidates are and what they stand for? Right now, the election is about which party controls the Senate, and that is the “gossip” train rearing its ugly head again.

What every elected official in Washington needs to understand is that “clean journalism” and real reporters are coming for all of them individually. Reporters in Washington should be researching news articles about which members of the House and Senate have no original thoughts or independent ideas. Which members do as they are “told” by the party bosses?

If you are not familiar with the Frank Capra movie, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington,” it’s a story about how political parties only have their own interests in mind and could care less about the people they are supposed to represent.

Well, we are living that today. And the savior of the people was the Press. They freed the American people from the corrupt parties.

We need them again. We need reporters and American journalists to save “We the People” from our corrupt lawmakers.

The people of Georgia need two senators who are going to fight for the needs of the people of Georgia, not what the Republican or Democratic leaders want. Following the party leadership means that states like Ohio, Arizona, Washington, Texas and Connecticut for example get no representation in Congress.

Speaker Pelosi is from California, so the people of California have full representation. Chuck Schumer is from New York, so the people of New York get full representation, but the people of Delaware do not. The people of Pennsylvania do not.

The 2016 win by Donald Trump was a rebuke of the two-party system and the corruption in Washington, where Congressional and Senate members no longer vote the way their constituents want them to vote — but do as “they are told” by their party leaders. This is the reason Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the impetus for the American Revolution.

We need journalists to start covering the real news and the real stories that are happening before their eyes. The story is not if the election is corrupt, because it isn’t — but why our elected representation forget us when they arrive in Washington. The American people elect representatives who are supposed to uphold their interests in Washington — and yet those interests are ignored time and time again by political party leaders.

The free press can uncover this corruption, expose the hypocrisy and hold elected officials accountable for their votes and political work.

It should be front page news why Speaker Pelosi opposes healthcare for all. It should be front page news why Mitch McConnell is in love with private health insurance, despite the truth that every single American citizen and doctor hates the private insurance companies.

I believe in freedom of the press, and I believe in American journalists, the bigger question is do journalists still believe in themselves?

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Professor Schwartz

Ed Consultant | Speaker/Author | Former Superintendent — Want to learn "how success happens?" Follow this link: https://leafacademy.org