Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Fourth Estate

I was part of a discussion where someone was arguing that the media is most responsible for what ails our country. He cited Geraldo Rivera--Geraldo!!--as one of the culprits. Finally! Something we could agree on, that Geraldo is a joke.

But seriously. Anyone who would mistake Geraldo for a journalist has already disqualified himself from continuing to argue in good faith. But he was determined to make his point.

"Well, what about Columbine? Those kids learned everything they knew about guns from what they read in magazines and saw on TV."

OK, I can go along with that. There's a lot of stuff in the media that is simply out there, like how to build a nuclear bomb, that is lethal when combined with mental illness and an axe to grind. There's also the issue that guns are too readily available, sanctioned by a permissive government hiding behind an archaic interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Nor do I buy the argument that media makes people mentally ill. The proclivity is already there. The "news" is fuel for mental illness, just as somebody looking at them the wrong way is.

And besides, if I were, God forbid, one of the parents whose kid had died at Columbine or any other school shooting, I'd want this horror to be discussed in the media. That's why there's a Holocaust Museum--to make sure people remember.

Whether people like it or not, the Fourth Estate serves a useful purpose in U.S. democracy, or what's left of it. People complain about the "liberal media," while me and my liberal friends bitch about FOX News. If you want to watch real journalists practicing their craft--and btw, you can catch Geraldo's show on FOX, just sayin'--look to Jim Lehrer's and his cohorts weekdays on PBS' "The Newshour." These journalist know how to ask questions and actually listen for the answers.

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