Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sunshine Week Starts at Home

I'm all for more transparency in government. I don't need to see everything, but somebody does. They can inform me when something needs my attention. That is the job of journalist and the MSM. Openness in government is a good thing.

The Cheney Stratagem – even as he was sworn in as VP, he still had other priorities – was to increase the power of the executive which had eroded following Watergate. His plan also included more secrecy with the increased power. In the administration's sixth year, he seems to be exercising his agenda. The sunshine initiative flies in the face of the Chaney Stratagem (like getting shot in the face). Openness doesn't prevent a more powerful president; it just lets us see what he (or she) is doing with all that power.

STOP THE PRESSES!! Oh, wait, that's not right, wrong century. STOP THE BLOGGING!! When I read that Sunshine Week was being sponsored or pushed by American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), I was taken aback. I have a problem with professional journalist calling for more transparency in government. The callers for illumination should illuminate themselves. We certainly need sunshine in government but we need it in MSM just as much – perhaps even more so. I expect my government to be opaque – it is in the interest of politicians to do so – but not my news providers. Why would anything other than transparency be in their interest? Unless, like the politician, they have something to hide. They are now part of the news.

The unnamed source is a cancer in the body journalistic. News should be transparent. We look at the facts and draw our own judgment. MSM is a vessel to deliver the news. Like inert, transparent glass, it should deliver its contents untainted and unobscured, allowing the consumer to judge.

If you hold back something that relates directly and significantly to the news then you become part of the news. When I read most news stories coming out of Washington that are based on an unnamed source, I notice the elephant in the new story is the question of who leaked the information and why, and of course, that goes unanswered. The most important aspect of the story goes unreported. How is that good journalism?

The defense of the whistleblower only hold water outside of Washington. Most if not all stories involving the national government has little to nothing to do with whistle blowing. They have more to do with interagency or personal rivalry, administration spin, or individual ambition than pointing out some wrong doing in the government. At least that is my guess; I have no hard evidence since it goes unreported.

The reporters who live by the unattributed source have a vested interest in maintaining that relationship. They are certainly not going to kill the goose that is laying those golden, byline, top of the fold, Pulitzer eggs. That is what editors are supposed to do. However, they are more worried about sunshine in government than in their own house.

No one denies the importance of gatekeepers to hold back the insignificant and fact cluttering aspect of any story; but when the actual lead his kept hidden because access to the rest of the story would be lost is unethical. They have compromised their journalistic souls for access and the lesser story. Some sunshine is sorely needed here.

I’ve been banging away all over the blogoshpere and I’ll say it here again: Blogs are the best thing to happen to journalism since the First Amendment.
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