Best-ever thing you can read on climate change and the American press.
A convenient excuse by Wen Stephenson in the Boston Phoenix is unlike anything I have read on the subject. Stephenson is a colleague of journalists at places like the Boston Globe, Atlantic magazine and Frontline on PBS. He used to work side-by-side with them. Then he quit for writing projects of his own. He would up devoting himself to grasping climate change, and doing something about it. Here he tells his former co-workers what he thinks of their response to the slow-moving crisis that is now upon us. A key quote:
You are failing. You are failing to treat the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced like the crisis that it is. Why?
Look, unlike most of your critics, I know you. You’re not just names on a page or a screen to me: you’re living, breathing human beings, with lives and families. I’ve shared the stresses and anxieties of journalism in this era. I know how hard you work, and how relatively little (most of) you are paid. I know how insecure your jobs are. And I know that your work — even your very best work — is most often thankless. Believe me. I know.
I also know that you take your responsibility as journalists, as public servants, seriously. Why is it, then, that you are so utterly failing on this all-important topic? I could be wrong, but I think I understand. I’m afraid it has to do with self-image and self-censorship.
Nothing is more important to me as a journalist than my independence. Yes, I’m still a journalist. And I’m as independent as I’ve ever been — maybe, if you can imagine this, even more so. Because leaving behind my mainstream journalism career has freed me to speak and write about climate and politics in ways that were virtually impossible inside the MSM bubble, where I had to worry about perceptions, and about keeping my job, and whether I’d be seen by my peers and superiors as an advocate. God forbid.
Read the rest. It is clear, direct, honest and very, very critical of our press.
But the problem it identifies is so huge that solving it requires an ideological war to be fought and won within the journalism profession, which is still populated by people convinced that they have no ideology. That makes me pessimistic. What makes me optimistic: the pressures that brought Stephenson to his conclusion, (“business-as-usual, politics-as-usual, and journalism-as-usual are failing us…”) are not going to change. And so others may be led to where he has gone.
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