Monday, March 14, 2005

Sunshine Week

No, this posting isn't about the lengthening days in the Northern hemisphere, and the coming of spring. It's about reportage and the government's trend toward keeping information and knowledge in the dark. It's about the tap dancing by the Bush administration, the non-answers, and calling out the politicians (and agencies) who engage in behaviors / practices that are intentionally designed to decieve the public.

On a personal level, I've wasted a lot of bits and bytes on All Spin Zone slashing and burning the fourth estate. I believe that it's come to the point where many reporters and editors have compromised their journalistic integrity in the quest for "access" (and retaining their own jobs). After all, if a news organization doesn't have access and can't report stories, or is continually get scooped by the competition, how long are the journalists and editors in that organization going to have a job?

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has designated the coming week as "Sunshine Week". This year, ASNE is focusing on access to government information via the Freedom of Information Act (information that, as a taxpayer, you OWN), and the general cloak of secrecy that seems to have descended on all government operations from local to federal.

However, before I go too far in applauding this effort by ASNE, Sunshine Week seems almost like a "cover thine ass" move. The pen is truly mightier than the sword, but in the last five years, both print and broadcast media have been exceptionally reluctant to stake out critical ground. Where many reporters and editors should have been investigating, they were cheerleading. Where some should have been putting their journalistic integrity on the line, they sold themselves out like mongrel dogs in the quest for a few scraps access or personal celebrity.

A few journos read ASZ, so let's try this in the coming seven days - instead of being a stenographer for the spinmasters, consider the longer view than just the next paycheck. Too many journalists have been coopted by the spinmasters, and the ones who've resisted have been marginalized. Make "Sunshine Week" more than an empty promise to your readership. Keep the promise to yourself.

Remember why you got into this business in the first place.

(Thanks to Will Bunch at Philadelphia Daily News and Attytood.)