1.23.2016

Where Are The Journalists?


I've been receiving the LA Times newspaper for over 30 years. As a San Diego resident, this has taken a real commitment on my part: hard to find, expensive, and rarely delivered promptly.

With the loss of printed news publications we have lost an important arm of our society; the branch that investigates local politics, corrupt government agencies, community representation. Accountability of those in power has always been the primary drive and wide social benefit behind journalism‎. It reaches way beyond our reality TV daily dose, delivered electronically. The quick online reads, that I love, as you do, are 4 second blips. As I read powerful stories come over my Facebook feed, I usually don’t sustain the material beyond a moment or two, like crack: a big wallop and gone in an instant.

If we are only willing to consume that bit of news, then that's all we'll be offered.
When the Bell, California, Council Members, Mayor and City Manager were caught and convicted for bilking the city of multi-millions, referred to as a "reign of fraud," I was again thankful for the reporters who functioned as gum-shoe detectives, spending exhaustive months to verify and uncover. 
Every large scandal that you can recall was most likely discovered and ultimately reported by a journalist. 
It's unlikely that I will first-hand see Chernobyl or the Fukushima Plant in Japan. Reporters are our eyes and ears. Sebastian Junger's embedded reporting of Korengal and Restrepo is a tribute to those who served overseas, and the closest most of us will get to experiencing wartime conditions.
Photojournalists are equally critical to implore us to move beyond lethargy. An unbiased, non-verbal capturing by someone without a horse in the race. Pure and holy.

My grandfather was born in the U.S., yet given a name reflective of his immigrant parents: Orlando Delfino. because he wanted to be a copy writer, he changed his name to something "more American" - Del Rogers. He started the first Italian newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona, La Italiana Tribuna. Perhaps because I had my early years walking around his musty old shop on Central Avenue, I have always carried along something to read...a newspaper, magazine, book, anything that I can get my hands on. When I have lived abroad for extended periods of time, twice now (Cambridge, England, and Guadalajara, Mexico), I paid a small fortune every Sunday to purchase an English-language newspaper.

The picture of the burning "Napalm Girl" in Vietnam1972, by an AP photographer, or more recently, the dead Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, aged 3 washed ashore in Turkey. Pictures change us and demand social action.

As a young girl, several decades ago, I came across a startling book about Bellevue Hospital, a well-known psychiatric hospital in New York (nicknamed “the last resort for the unwanted.”) The detailed accounts of mental illness, from a reporters perspective, stirred my fascination in mental health patients. 
Humanitarian and US Naval physician Dr. Thomas Dooley died two years before I was born while serving in Vietnam, an expose on his humanitarian efforts fostered volunteerism in me that I hope has only grown.
While I'm nose to the grindstone in my little world over here, reporters are reporting, telling the stories, not of billionaires losing coastline in Nantucket or quarterback injuries, but of dirty politics, systemic crime and corruption; listening to whistle blowers; they are our collective boots on the ground.

I can only wonder where the journalists were for the residents of Flint, Michigan, to suss out the stink. Maybe laid off a year or or two ago, now writing for trendy blogs. 

Sunday, buy a newspaper. Don't worry about which mega-hole owns it...just buy any old one.