Friday, 27 April 2007

David Halberstam is dead

David Halberstam is dead. And his breed of journalism is dying out. What's happened to journalism over the past six or seven years? It's like many journalists have decided to hide their heads in the sand, lifting them only to eat up the lies the Bush administration has fed them.

Yes, I'm on my soapbox now. I have watched U.S. journalism from afar for quite a few years and been so disappointed and angered by its decline. Dubya and his cohorts have gotten away with an illegal and immoral war by using the "war on terrorism" card for far too long. Dubya, Cheney, and Rumsfeld should be on trial for crimes against humanity because they are as guilty as any ethnic-cleansing Serb in Bosnia. And the media in America are guilty of watching and not doing much about it. When I come home to visit and read the newspapers, it's like a different war to the one reported in the British newspapers. It's changing now, but for the first two years, it was a joke.

David Halberstam wouldn't have allowed the terrible trio to get away with it. It's because of Halberstam and others like him that we learned about the lies told about the Vietnam War. And in those days publishers defended their reporters and stood up for them. Journalists felt they had a moral obligation to report on what the public should know. Now they report on what they think the public wants to know.

Why is this? The fight for higher circulation and viewing figures, for one. The corporatization of the media for another. It started happening in the 80s, I think. When I was at journalism school, about 30 years ago, the dean of the college kept sounding the death knell for print journalism. He was a radio man, so he would. But there was a change in the type of person enrolling in j-school. No longer the idealistic, truth-finding, slightly scruffy sorts; instead, lots of Kens and Barbies who wanted to be in PR or TV. And when I graduated and got a job at a newspaper owned by an up-and-coming media conglomerate, I watched my colleagues change. Idealism was replaced by cynicism, truth-finding only had a place if it brought up circulation figures or reaped rewards. Slightly scruffy types cut their hair and bought new clothes.

I was a young teen-ager when Watergate happened. Woodward and Bernstein were my heroes, as were Halberstam and others of that generation. The Reagan era seemed to change journalism for the worse. Now there are so many media outlets that there must be a huge competition for viewers and readers. Print journalism still exists, but has diversified. Rupert Murdoch has left his mark with the tabloid-style Fox News Network (is that an oxymoron?).

I left journalism 15 years ago to move to the UK to be with my husband. But I was demoralised and disillusioned with journalism anyway. I probably would have left for another type of job if I hadn't moved.

David Halberstam is dead. Long live the David Halberstams still alive.