Work Ethics

Black BirdDo you remember the movie The Maltese Falcon”? Or better do you remember Dashiell Hammett’s book that it was made from? At the end of the story Sam Spade, Humphrey Bogart’s character, could have had it all, the money, the girl, he could have been on easy street. But what did he do? He turned the woman over to the police and returned the gold statute of the Falcon. Why? Because it was his job.

This week Chuck Todd, news director at NBC has been getting a lot of grief because he said on a Sunday talk show that correcting politicians was not his job. A lot of people who remember Walter Cronkite and Ed Murrow are outraged at that. They think a journalist’s job is to present the truth, to challenge mistakes and expose lies. I agree, that is a journalist’s job. I wanted that job, to be a journalist, even before Woodward and Bernstein and The Mary Tyler Moore Show made so popular.

Lucky for me I was pushed in another direction because that job does not exist any more. At least not at the commercial networks. Decades ago Congress, in an act of senseless deregulation, removed the requirement that companies using the public airways present the news as a public service. The networks moved their news departments to their entertainment divisions and that was the end of commercial broadcast journalism. Presenting the truth was no longer a goal. Providing the most eyeballs for advertisers was. That was Chuck Todd’s job, to provide viewers for advertisers, not truth to viewers.

Todd just gets to call himself a journalist the way performers in pornography get to call themselves actors instead of prostitutes. He promotes lies but he is a JOURNALIST and, yes, they have sex for money but they are ACTORS. Don’t you see the difference? Neither do I.

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