Green Journalism

An inadvertent follow-up to the previous post but, there’s a well-laid out compendium about the media’s culpability in the run up to the current financial crisis, here. Using as its analogue the media’s roll in the breathless rush to war in Iraq, there are some startlingly appropriate comparisons to draw with other situations. In the midst of fiscal, geo-political, environmental meltdowns, we’re accustomed to the print and TV press just playing along, presenting false dichotomies and premises, compromised by corporate conflicts-of-interest, muddying a situation until it’s too late.

And even when the reporting was solid, which was rare enough, news organizations didn’t follow up in appropriate ways. If we can foresee a catastrophe, it’s not enough to mention it once or twice and then move on.

That common practice suggests an opportunity. When we can predict an inevitable calamity if we continue along the current path, we owe it to the public to do everything we can to encourage a change in that destructive behavior.

In practice, this means activism. It means relentless campaigning to point out what’s going wrong, and demanding corrective action from those who can do something about it.

Crushing and important issues with long-term implications become trivialized as a part of the infotainment experience the big media conglomerates, like the Big automakers and their rationales for the huge, gas-guzzling SUVs, say the public desires. It’s the guise of fairness in the trappings of drama and fragmentation that allow enormous and clear stories to become opaque and difficult to piece together. Global warming is one such story; how long will we read and hear stories from the perspective of both sides, about how it might be a problem, until we pass the last tipping point?

TPM’s Gillmor brings up yellow journalism and draws an interesting comparison to the few newspaper editors who decided to embrace racial integration and really forced the issue by keeping it front and center, drawing lines in the sand, digging footings and constructing the edifice that would become our present society. Because they knew it was being constructed anyway, and that if they didn’t, if they supported the status quo with their silence, they would be working in the service of segregation.