The seemingly pending demise of local journalism in communities across the country has me dismayed almost beyond measure.
I have been sharing email messages with a longtime Texas Panhandle journalist who endorsed my concern over the slow, steady and agonizing degradation of the Amarillo Globe-News, the newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years before my career came to a halt in August 2012.
What is happening in the Panhandle is a tragedy. There’s no other way to describe it. The Canadian Record, a weekly newspaper of longstanding fame and tradition, shut its doors earlier this year, leaving that portion of the Panhandle with no voice.
The Globe-News no longer publishes a daily editorial page and it has gone to mailing its editions to consumers, a decision that, in my view, makes delivery of timely news an absolute impossibility.
The biggest loser in all of this, according to my friend and former colleague, are those who demand that local politicians be held accountable. My friend wrote this:
“The worst part of all this is that for a democracy to survive at its best, there needs to be scrutiny of the decisions of public officials, otherwise it’ll be easier for more of them to succumb to temptation with impunity, with little to no oversight. The public gets the short straw and honest, efficient government at all levels suffers terribly. There goes democracy as it’s supposed to work.”
The media are supposed to function as the public’s eyes and ears. It reports on what government does, what those who run our government say and on the results of those decisions to those of us who rely on government.
The media also are charged with being the voice of the public that consumes what the media report and then speak out either in favor of or against what government is doing for — or to — them.
This is what we always tried to do at every stop I made along my way through a modestly successful — and wholly gratifying — career in print journalism. We occasionally reported and commented on matters the public didn’t want to hear; and they let us know when that occurred. We also received applause when we earned it from the public that thanked us for being there for them.
That element is being stripped away piece by piece by this new age of journalism that is taking on a totally different look from what I remember.
It’s about the accountability … stupid!