Sunday, June 8, 2014

Where's Murrow and Bradley when you need them? Oh yeah, they're dead

I was lamenting the state of the News Industry with a buddy, a former mid-market television guy named Melvin Laurence. Dynamite guy, looks and sounds like his onscreen persona.

In the 'Days of Yore,' meaning before 2010 -- print journalists, which was what I was, and television news people didn't really mingle. Print journalists used to think they were better than television or radio guys. It was arrogant, given the fact there are/were some very talented journalists in other media.

Well, Mel and I started talking about investigative reporting, which isn't done correctly or at all anymore, in either print, television or radio. For any media outlet to do investigative pieces it automatically raises the insurance rates on publications. I was considered a good bet by the insurance company, which helped me keep my publisher job in a contentious small-market weekly coverage area in Monmouth County.

Mel reported in roughly the same type of demographic for television. We laughed about some of the hum-dingers we used to report on. He talked about how Edward R. Murrow was his inspiration, while I countered with former Washington Post Publisher Ben Bradley being mine. While neither Mel or I never rose to the heights of our role models, we are both able to say we did good work. Our careers over, we sounded like two weary war veterans talking about our days 'on the front.'

It is not that newspapers are horrible now because I am not writing in them, nor television terrible because Mel isn't doing his thing on-air. The audiences changed. Our kind of news is part of the archives. And, I lament that sorely.

When the Founders of our great nation planned its visionary ideals, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, an old newspaper man himself, was sure to get freedom of the press prominently included in the ideological make-up of our republic. In fact, most journalists who went to college or can read (that cannot be assumed anymore), knew that the press was an informal check/or safeguard against tyranny in this country. Rather than redneck militia types threatening our nation under the guise of 'saving it,' or Tea Party morons trying to critique leaders who, unlike them, can both read and write, and trying to topple the status quo in favor of turning back the hands of times to the Civil War Era, the press used to inform. And, investigative reporting was an art learned by young reporters from older reporters. It was mentorship and elbow grease.

Then came along moneyed charlatans who thought they could do news as entertainment (talking about you Rupert Murdoch and those like you) and systematically decimated a once-proud American institution -- the news. After his 'gentle touch,' the news became a farce. Later the now 'respectable' Huffington Post grew on a foundation of reporting other peoples' news and spending as little time as possible on issues and budgets -- in favor of the Kim Khardashian's ass size versus Jennifer Lopez's and such nonsense.

But then, people do not read anymore, I do not even know if it is taught in schools anymore. They are online and try to cipher through 20-word briefs, if at all, talking about the finances of government, at all levels, then moving on to the serious business of Brad Pitt breaking up with Jennifer Aniston.

What is a symptom of these poisoned days of news? America was in a war in Iraq that the then-Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, says was perpetrated by the former Bush Administration for the sole purpose of exacting advantages in the oil production market and not, in any way, due to "weapons of mass destruction." Consequently, more than 3,000 young American perished fighting a war of economic adventurism rather than one demanded by national security. Why? America cannot read and is so seduced by Internet trivialities and entertainment that, while good men and women metaphorically slept, a monster was unleashed and waved the flag and sent young Americans into countless nightmares. All the while, abominations like Fox News figuratively clapped former President Bush on the back for 'job well done' and dared not find a speck of truth. This is the same for all news gathering sources.

It is rare that one of the guilty, Ms. Rice, openly admits the false nature of the entire Iraq War, and her participation in such a previously unheard of practice before even one news outlet, in any form of media, had the rocks to actually do their damned jobs. Such a thing is an indictment of the stupidity, greed and passivity of modern media.

Back to Mel's role model, Murrow, and mine, Bradley: They would have literally changed the world these days if they just did their jobs. Maybe there might not have been an Iraq War, or if there was a war it would not be 10 years of horror and lives. Oh, if only the American Public could read! Why can't Johnny read? Because he is on his iPhone and playing "Call of Duty" there.

Modern journalists online and in print, bloggers, news 'tweeters,' radio guys and television types are a pack of self-centered, untrained, language-challenged shirkers and lay-abouts of tremendously little worth in my book. These days, I wake up and read my novels, where I can find some truth in the human condition via the talent and insight of wonderful writers, albeit not in the news of the day.

The public has become as dumb as a bag of hammers and the Royal One Percent of rich Americans have effectively co-opted all forms of news to serve their ends, which is not to pay taxes or allow others to claim Social Security, among other things. Guess what, Mr. and Mrs. American...they won and we are now living in their world.

My deep 'thanks' to all those wonderful news organizations that contributed to this insanity, 'good work,' guys.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Paradise and Parking Lots

By Rev. Jim Purcell (Ret.)

In my late 40s, I'm looking around these days and I notice the change of time more than I have before, on the whole. Born in an era where computers were novelties and widely known as "games" or bulky commercial facts of life, there is nothing left of such a perception anymore. Computers rule the world and never before has mankind been more technically advanced than at this moment, despite the fact that the last time the United States put a man on the moon was the early 1970s, and those fellows at NASA basically did it with a few slide rulers and a calculator.

Nevertheless, I believe it is safe to say that folks these days could probably pull that off if they really wanted to do it. As much as technology has changed, so too has many of the commonly held truths of mankind have similarly changed, as I understood them.

It seems no one believes in God, our Government, Peace, Equality or working toward better days. Everything has become a slick 'pitch,' someone's grab for money be it in politics, government, business, industry or manufacturing.

Most unsettling, though, is that every day I read and learn about horrible atrocities against the lives of men and women, even children, across our country and the globe, the level of cruelty of which I could have never dreamed so many years ago -- when the world and weather seemed so much more gentle to me as a young boy growing up in New Jersey. And, there are cameras everywhere in this world. There is so much of what I knew about the dreams of the Founders of this nation that has been challenged and, in most cases, usurped, changed as political expedients to large political lobbies representing moneyed interests (e.g. Big Gun and the Tea Party).

In my life, I have been a soldier, a journalist and a member of the clergy. I enjoyed the first two so much, and yet being a member of clergy has done nothing to affirm the best parts of mankind to me at all. Wars are fought by politicians not for freedom or necessity but for personal vendettas and for the sake of making money, like what President George W. Bush did. And, these wars, monstrosities, are even hailed by some Americans still As a journalist in the newspaper tradition, I was so exalted to see the print media still alive with the spirit of the 1st Amendment in the 1990s and 200s, only to see that stripped to nothing by Internet News, which first covers celebrities and cute dog shots before any mention of government, the affairs of business or legitimate controversies of real import (e.g. the Huffington Post, chief among others). And, insofar as life for the clergy, it has been relegated to the business of hucksters, by and large, selling God as cheaply as some might sell a new kind of toaster oven.

I love my God, my daughters and my country, in that order. Any one of these, or all of them, may have whatever remains of my life. But, whether it is now or many years from now, I will leave a world, an America, that seems to me, more and more, like a cheap replica of something that was once almost holy. Long before I end, my faith for a brighter tomorrow for my country and my grandchildren being born in a land brighter than I knew, one day, is already gone, extinguished. And, I lament that sorely.

I ask myself where will the next George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Grace Hopper, John Kennedy or John Roebling come from? All but only the most low and sleazy of parasites partake in politics these days, and only the most inept and inside-connected of louts serve in government. And, in so many corners, our men and women of our Armed Services have been so disconnected from this nation's sacred traditions of the past these are not remembered at all, except by diligent historians. Meanwhile, from parking lots to stores, to hallways and lobbies, apartments and streets, banks and food stores, schools of all makes and public places of all descriptions there is always the unblinking eye of the camera everywhere. And, anyone who still believes in the Bible, the Talmud or the Holy Koran seem to simply use these amazing scriptures for nothing but excuses for one bloody war after another, so much so I have even stopped reading my Bible for remembrance of these unholy designs. In addition, I fear even the God of my understanding has done the same not wishing to indulge in anymore of man's blaring idiocy in the face of texts that should preach love and acceptance and not hate and war.

Indeed, I fear this world has shunned the Word of God, especially those who have dared to pretend to know the mind of God (e.g. heretical Christians, Muslims and Jews). What is the use of scholarship if no one will listen to its conclusions? I believe none.

I am not afraid of the future: Growing old and dying is not the worst thing that can happen. It is not even in the 100 'worst things' that could happen. It takes someone a lot of years to figure that one out, and explaining it is absolutely useless. What is the worst thing, I believe, is seeing everything and everyone one knew taken from them, changed for the worst and lowered by great measure. It is perhaps not a bad thing to retreat from the world, in my opinion, because it is easier not to stare at what it has become and who lives in it now.

I have withdrawn from anything involved in the world, by and large, and plan to only retreat more so in the coming years. In much the same way as a hopeful fan cannot help but die a bit inside when they see their favorite team torn to shreds in front of them, or see their first school torn down, or the Army they served in become something that is wholly unrecognizable, or their own denomination so corrupted that even its priests, pastors and parliamentarians are visibly shams, as much so as the government they grew up believing in so dearly.

Peace? It is a hollow term today. The world is a place of cheap houses, cheap morals and even cheaper leaders and ideals. No, it is better to sit on a beach, take walks, dance whenever possible, listen to enjoyable music and read good books. Sometimes, a life of reflection is a lot brighter than one of staring into an abyss of insanity.

Things were not all that much better in the past: sexism, racism -- all of the 'isms' -- to include McCarthyism -- all have their place in the pantheon of American history. However, there was always a belief, now abandoned by all but the most nostalgic, that it might change. Things could change. Things might change if we try hard enough together. My eyes see nothing that warrants such optimism today. Sure, I hope it changes. But, people get tired of even hoping at a certain point. Years ago, people used to say, "God bless us" in a way that pleaded with the Almighty to look well upon us. Today, that statement seems to have become an order by politicians to the Almighty to provide such a blessing 'Right Now,' so it is very likely there is no such blessing coming.

To mankind, God gave a Paradise, which we turned into a parking lot in front of a Seven-Eleven as quickly as we collectively could. Well, at least we all know where our next Coke and hot dog is coming from anyway. With that, I will say thanks for stopping by and have a lovely week.