In an era increasingly shaped by ideological trench warfare - a media-saturated world in which folks are lured to consume prepackaged news mirroring their own narrow worldview - the very best reporters challenge authority, ask the hardest questions, challenge conventional thinking and hold accountable those who presume to speak for all of us - all with a relentless fidelity to the truth, "without fear or favor" [Randell Beck, "The Best Reporters Pursue Truth," that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.03.14].
Like Beck, I am grateful for reporters. The paid media do a lot of investigative work that even the most passioante among us bloggers cannot afford to do on a regular basis. It's their job to be watchdogs over government and industry for the rest of us who are busy working other jobs all week long.
In that spirit, I hope Mr. Beck will dispatch his reporters to find some truth about the following stories that have yet to get much attention from the newspapers:
- Rick Millner's state-supported Veblen East Dairy has been cited for violating DENR regulations. The dairy, now in receivership, appears to follow the same pattern of financial woe and willful environmental disregard that characterize other Millner business ventures. Just what is going on in Veblen, and why has the state offered so much support to this particular mega-CAFO?
- Last October, Senator Thune voted against an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that prohibits private defense contractors from preventing employees from taking cases of workplace sexual assault, battery, and discrimination to court. Thune's hometown media in Sioux Falls have yet to hold the Senator to a serious accounting on that vote. (I welcome examples to the contrary.)
- Beck touts some up-and-coming journalism scholarship winners, saying "we've got some pretty strong future reporters in the pipeline." But they've had darn few reporters on the pipeline—the Keystone pipeline, that is. The biggest construction project in the country plowed through South Dakota last summer, tearing up roads and farm fields. Where were the newspaper reports about the disruption and grief caused to our local farmers?
- Beck shares my thirst for transparency in government. Locally, however, Madison has an economic development corporation, the LAIC, that operates in near complete secrecy. The city and county dump tax dollars into the LAIC, and the public never receives a detailed accounting of how that money is spent. The LAIC keeps a lid on useful information that should be public by charging exorbitant fees for access. Our local newspaper gives the LAIC nothing but the "rainbows and sunshine" one of Beck's scholarship winners derides.
p.s.: Beck makes a big deal about how reporters and editors refuse to align with any philosophy and keep their opinions out of their work. Again, Beck peddles the harmful myth of journalistic objectivity. He himself enunciates a clear (and admirable!) philosophy that motivates the best journalists: challenge authority and conventional thinking, hold the powerful accountable, seek truth... sorry, Randell, that's a philosophy. We do better to wear our philosophies on our sleeves than to pretend we don't have them.
Beck also invokes God twice in this one editorial. That's philosophy, too.