By Guest Columnist, Michael Ceremello – March 11, 2019 –
The ennui on both the local and national level transfixes my attention to alternate considerations. We are witnessing the implosion of staid institutions as paradigms aren’t shifting but being uniquely created. Consider the closure of big box stores, the disappearance of the home phone, and, what is nearer and dearer to my heart and involvement, the dissolution of print media a.k.a. the daily newspaper.
Over the weekend I was reading yet another promotional piece on Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who claims “Capitalism is Irredeemable”. She decries the collusion between big business and government. Her conclusions, as usual, are untenable and ill thought out. The point is correct however.
Can we count on Cortez to join the Trump bandwagon of calling journalism, as it evinces itself today, “fake news” or recognizing that capitalism is also behind the fourth estate or fifth column’s efforts and bias? If you want a reason for the decline, deterioration, and self imposed destruction of newspapers in America, you need to look no further than a definition.
In the United States, the term fourth estate is sometimes used to place the press alongside the three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. The fourth estate refers to the watchdog role of the press, one that is important to a functioning democracy.
Despite lamentations to the contrary, subjective opinion pieces substituting for investigative journalism does not equate to pointing out errors of decision makers who may be right or wrong based on history and its repetition. What we are seeing is a true fifth column as described in the following from The Phrase Finder.
In October 1936, in the hostilities of the Spanish Civil War, the nationalist General Emilio Mola and his supporters besieged Madrid with four columns of troops. Mola claimed he had additional troops within the city. The claim was reported in the New York Times like this:
“Police last night began a house-to-house search for Rebels in Madrid… Orders for these raids … apparently were instigated by a recent broadcast over the Rebel radio station by General Emilio Mola. He stated he was counting on four columns of troops outside Madrid and another column of persons hiding within the city who would join the invaders as soon as they entered the capital.”
Both of these derelictions of duty are key components of a dying industry being supplanted by blogs, social media, or alternative news sites. Crescent City is one perfect example of the response of dedicated and honorable people responding to the cover ups in that city’s newspaper, the Triplicate. Former councilwoman Donna Westfall created the Crescent City Times, an online newspaper, which attempts to discover the truth behind the local collusion of government and those providing services for profit.\
Next we can look at the Atwater-Wintun Times, a Central Valley newspaper, where a solitary reporter Beverly Barela was covering Atwater’s council meetings. I say “was” because she was removed from that specific function after numerous columns pointing out provable facts rather than insinuations. Just as in Dixon where the Tribune fails to cover local politics other than for photo ops, the Atwater-Times board was approached to silence this individual relegating the paper to being a “positive” worthless waste of newsprint.
The “fifth column” in my community is comprised of those not who seek to destroy the estalishment from within, but those who wish to preserve it and augment it for their own benefit. The destructive nature of their choice is the same as that of those in Atwater, to silence the truth and obstruct progress toward real solutions which twenty five years of their control of city government has adequately demonstrated their incapabilities.
But there is even a more nefarious nature to this beast than has yet to be exposed. We are back to Cortez and her abhorrence of the profit motive.
Aiding the fifth column in their quest is the editor or business owner who diminishes political critique, which has a long history in our country from the Founding to at least Thomas Nast, all in an effort to retain advertisers or to not offend particular groups of readers. The fifth column directly calls for boycotts by advertisers. The owner/editor sees only profits and not purpose. Balance is the key and difficult to achieve.
Many conservative talk show hosts, Sean Hannity is the first to come to mind, have seen their advertisers run from the truth to an extent. This paper, the Independent Voice, has suffered from financial attacks in like manner forcing unnecessary litigation wasting taxpayer resources.
The question now becomes how to create a viable print media. Considering the proliferation of “garbage news”, my term for what appears on the internet as Yahoo News, having an online newspaper can be just as susceptible to truth dilution.
What happened to morals in America? Don’t we want to do what is “right” anymore? Until we are willing to stand up and say, “We want the truth and are willing to pay for it” we will continue down the path to the destruction of the greatest country this world has ever seen.
I would have said the easiest solution is that of the owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, or the owner of the Tribune. When money isn’t a consideration, you don’t really care what the advertisers who are expected to fund the enterprise will do. Allowing the advertisers to give the rest of us a free ride is in the vein of the democrat socialists who believe others should pay for what they “think” are rights when the right to a free press IS a constitutional right.
While most of the large newspapers, the Vacaville Repeater, the Fairfield Daily Repulsive, the Crescent City Replicant, and the Dixon fish wrapper are all subscription only, isn’t it about time the rest of us voted with our pocketbooks? If you want a paper with substance, no one is going to do it for free.
William Randolph Hearst gave you all the news that was fit to print. I don’t need San Simeon …