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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All The President's Men

The question is will a fair and vigorous press spring up after the newspapers are gone? Will the next Woodward and Bernstein be culled from the ranks of bloggers writing about events from other warmed over net news items. Or will that go the way of pulp and belong to an age gone by. Could a Nixon be taken down by an I Reporter. Or would they be stopped at the first meeting with Deep Throat and worry about their safety and consider the fact they are not getting paid. Would they cull through news articles and Freedom of Information documents to find the necessary puzzle pieces that ultimately led to the White House? Or would they just fall back into bed and write another Op Ed piece on their laptop and worry about how many clicks they are getting?

The two young reporters for the Washington Post were idealistic digging journalist in the classic mode who believed a fair and vigorous press was our only hope. Can a Democracy survive without one? Probably. Will we be better for it? No. If we cannot produce another Woodward and Bernstein out of the till of new media then certainly we will not be able to uncover corruption at the highest levels. If journalism is an art form and a craft then we better figure a way to preserver the ragged remains of our newspapers even as they turn into online news content. It is not the method of delivery we are talking about but the means in the way that news will be gathered.

I write for many online sites. I write Op Ed pieces. There are a lot of people doing that now. But for someone to dig behind the veil requires knowledge, resources, will, drive, and someone who has paid for them to do their job. There might be the young zealot trying to make a name for himself in the cyber world but he will probably be stopped by his own inexperience and the lack of a mentoring journalistic class. Bernstein and Woodward were not hatched in the wilderness, they were young men with the support of a journalistic network of reporters and editors that showed them the way and allowed them to take it one step further.

Bringing a President to his knees is no small thing. Getting rid of our pulpy newspapers should not be confused with getting rid of our best hope for transparency in a democracy.

Books by William Hazelgrove