Put down the video game for a minute and take that thing out of your ear. Do you reaaallly want to know why you should read a newspaper, why you should spend your nickels and dimes (via our advertisers) to support us and our poorly paid, annoying habit of bringing you bad news? (Or worse: complex news, y’know, stuff you have to figure out. Ewww.)
Here’s why: If we don’t watch your public dollars – and your politicians, and your highly paid athletes, and your televangelists, and your gas drillers, and the quality of your air, who is going to? Plenty of interested parties, to be sure, starting with those who can make money off of you. But also the experts and gadflies and self-appointed watchdogs without whom Static’s benighted craft and the public in general would be so much worse off. The government? Hardly. Certainly there are agencies that are spending millions of your tax dollars supposedly doing some of those jobs, but get real – without the press paying attention, can you say, “asleep at the wheel”? “Bought off by industry?” “Toothless enforcement?” Forget all that – can you just spell “F-E-M-A”?
But the proof of why a healthy press is really needed is all the bad stuff that starts oozing out because we haven’t been watching closely enough. Name a generally boring public body whose meetings you don’t want to attend: the Tarrant Regional Water District perhaps (today’s topic: the price of chlorine!). Or the county hospital board. Maybe the Tarrant County College board of trustees.
Yes, most of you would rather sharpen pencils and insert them in your brain than sit through those meetings. But most of you – at least those of our readers who pay taxes, go to the hospital, drink water, or breathe – want someone who will watch them. (See the Metropolis story above. See the Weekly’s and Star-Telegram’s recent stories on John Peter Smith Hospital. See McClatchy Newspapers’ recent horrific accounts of what went on at Guantanamo. See the Weekly’s award-winning Barnett Shale coverage. See red.)
True, the press in general does that job poorly enough – because no editor, in these days of shrinking news staffs, is going to assign a reporter, week in and week out, to most of those agencies or issues. When the bad stuff does leak, however, it’s usually the news media that scoops it up, sifts through it, spends time and money filing open-records requests and generally making itself unpopular, until it roots out the truth. And there’s a lot of oozing going on these days, if you haven’t noticed.
Static will stop now, having worked itself up into either a crying jag or a long session with the C&W broken-heart section of its record collection. In fact, next time it will just write its own Country-Western lyrics instead. If only “journalism” just rhymed with something … no, bad idea.
OK, you can go back to the latest version of Grand Theft Auto. Though actually, if you’ve stuck with us this far, Static will permit itself to see a glimmer of hope.