Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Mar 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

When Good Journalism Disappears Too Quickly

tom_honig_sMy original idea was to entitle this column “At last—success of the mainstream media.” How unlikely sounding that was, so it immediately appealed to my sense of finding dignity in unexpected places.

Alas, it’s not to be.

Let’s start at the beginning. Last month, a mainstream media reporter, Dana Priest of the Washington Post and a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, co-authored a major series in the Post called “Top Secret America.”

It was a remarkable three-day investigative series, essentially documenting the remarkable expansion of the homeland security empire and how the sprawling military industrial complex has exploded in Washington and throughout the rest of the country. Along with Post colleague William Arkin, Priest used public records and some old-fashioned shoe leather to document how the intelligence network has multiplied since 9/11—and not always to the advantage of American security.

The Post reporters documented some incredible facts:

That more than 1,200 government organizations and nearly 2,000 private companies work in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

That nearly 900,000 people now hold special security clearance.

And, most incredibly, that all these companies and all these security folks aren’t communicating with each other, and that warnings—such as the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 military workers dead—are going unheeded because of problems in communication.

Despite some criticism from the usual quarters (“You’re giving away our secrets,” some hollered), it was exactly what investigative reporting was supposed to do. It laid out a reality of how bureaucracies can balloon and feed upon themselves if they remain unchecked. Even more, it detailed a situation with enough complexity—and here’s another aspect of it I liked—that the talkmeisters on cable television couldn’t react in their usual talking point, knee-jerk way.

In other words: neither left nor right could rely on their talking points. Check it out. The right must have loved the examination of a bureaucracy out-of-control. That’s something for the tea partiers. And the left must have been happy that someone was blowing the whistle on a defense-related government-industry complex that the Dick Cheneys of the world would love.

In other words, no easy answers. So the series was discussed for a day or two and then the topic-of-the-day moved on. It’s so much easier to discuss the mosque in lower Manhattan or the bizarre rants of Dr. Laura. Reactions to the series have been subdued—and the issue seems already to have dropped out of the public arena.

Bruce Hoffman, a writer for the blog “The National Interest,” puts it this way: “To date, though, surprise at the existence of this vast, bloated empire has been greeted mostly by paralytic bewilderment coupled with the predictable vigorous defense from those agencies and departments, contractors and consultants who have benefited most from it.”

This response is depressing. My initial reaction was to celebrate the ability and the professionalism of the mainstream media at work. Priest and Arkin showed the power of investigative reporting. But the aftermath makes me wonder. Does anyone really care? What happens when a story can’t be distilled into a good soundbite for either Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck?

Every now and again I enter “mainstream media” into a Google news search, and I have yet to come across a positive article. I thought, just maybe, that the “Top Secret America” series might give me ammunition to write such an article. I had remembered when Priest visited Santa Cruz back in 2006, when she offered a spirited defense of the mainstream media.

Speaking to a group honoring her for work, Priest cited her expose of secret CIA-sponsored prisons overseas—as well as the existence of the so-called “torture memo that authorized “enhanced interrogation. “ She said: “You would have none of this to think about without the mainstream media.”

Unfortunately, things have changed since 2006. Her Post series is worth celebrating, but my concern is that the work is disappearing, almost without a trace.


As a postscript, it’s worth mentioning that the “Top Secret America” is hardly an old-fashioned piece of journalism. It’s worth a journey to washingtonpost.com to see the wide variety of multimedia—video, maps, audio, charts and even blogs. The coordinated work of old time journalists and new-fangled multimedia journalists does, indeed, prove that the mainstream media still can produce some great work.

Writer Jon Katz once commented that looking at a newspaper website was like watching Lawrence Welk breakdancing. The Post disproves those words.


Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Send comments on this article to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Crop Circles

How the confusion over GMOs is undermining the organic movement

 

Week of Festivals: Full Moon, Lantern Festival, Purim, Holi

It is a week of many different festivals along with a full moon, all occurring simultaneously. Thursday Chinese New Year celebrations end with the Lantern Festival (at full moon). Thursday is also the Pisces Solar festival (full moon), Purim (Jewish Festival) and Holi (Hindu New Year Festival). Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. The festival of Purim celebrates the freedom of the Hebrew people from the cruel Haman (a magistrate) seeking to destroy them. Esther, the Queen of Persia, who was secretly Jewish, saved her people from death. The sweet cookie hamentaschen celebrates this festival. Friday, March 6, is Holi, the Hindu Spring Festival celebrated after the March full moon. Bonfires are lit the night before, warding off evil. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is the most colorful festival in the world. It is also the Festival of Love—of Radha for Krishna (the blue-colored God). It is a spring festival with singing, dancing, carnivals, food and bhang, a drink made of cannabis leaves. Holi signifies good over evil, ridding oneself of past errors, ending conflicts through rapprochement (returning to each other). It is a day of forgiveness, including debts. Holi also marks the beginning of New Year. At the Pisces Solar festival we recite the seed thought, “We leave the Father’s home and, turning back, we save.” Great Teachers remain on Earth until all of humanity is enlightened. The New Group of World Servers is called to this task and sacrifice. Sacrifice (from the heart) is the first Law of the Soul, the heart of which is Love. This sacrifice saves the world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of March 6

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Water Street Grill

YOLO gets reincarnated

 

What would make Santa Cruz better?

A lot more outdoor activities such as outdoor movies and concerts, food and art festivals, and more multicultural activites. Emmanuel Cole, Santa Cruz, Bicycle Industry Product Developer

 

Thomas Fogarty Winery

When looking for a bottle of something to have with dinner, Gewürztraminer 2012 is not the first wine to come to mind. Given the popularity of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir—to name but a few—Gewürztraminer sits low on the totem pole.

 

So Long, Louie’s

Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar closes, plus Back Porch pop-up, and 2015 Outstanding in the Field tour