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9.18.2004

What Happened to Investigative Journalism?

If the last few weeks have shown us anything, it is that the American media, for the most part, has become a lazy echo chamber. Major stories fall through the cracks or are given cursory verbatim press release coverage. The majority of our media repeats the current "hot button" issue ad nauseum until the next topic comes along. We are treated to the same "experts" saying the same thing over and over again. Lies repeated with authority and even angry indignation become the equivalent of urban legends. Truth via repetitiveness.

Flash over substance has become the motto of our free press. Hurricanes are the new shark attacks. Pregnant women killed by their husbands or basketball players who rape are much more emotionally charged stories and easier to pontificate on than say, which "administration officials" leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent or If we were we taken to war under false pretenses. The administration's complicity in under inflating Medicare prescription costs and the complexities of no bid contracts.

The line between entertainer and reporter has become so blurred that it is hard to tell if it is even there. Talking heads fill our screens and repeat the words written for them or, more likely, pulled off of a national wire service. It is the same story being "reported" by every other personality on every other radio, television, newspaper and magazine in the country. The lemmings syndrome. Follow the leader even if it takes the entire country over a cliff.

The days of an intrepid young reporter wearing a jauntily cocked hat and searching through the basement records to "scoop" the competition and take down a decieptful beaurocrat are gone...or are they?

The last few weeks have shown that "bloggers", internet amateurs, have become the new investigative journalists. Armed only with a computer connection and a burning desire to find the truth, these armchair reporters have busted open the thinly reported, unreported or cosmetically covered stories presented by our billion dollar media corporations.

Breaking news is now found on websites like Democratic Underground, Buzz Flash, Atrios, DailyCos and others too numerous to mention. Members of these websites do the investigative work that the media used to do. They slog through pages and pages of boring information looking for the nugget of truth that the major media missed, the connection not investigated or the contradiction not exposed. These intrepid geeks have become America's freedom of information fighters. The fifth estate has been replaced by the sixth apartment with a DSL connection.

Two stories in the last few weeks have exposed the mainstream media's apathy and sluggishness. The first involved the, now infamous, CBS documents that allegedly showed President Bush received favorable treatment and did not complete his service in the National Guard. The documents were part of the evidence which included first hand testimony of a pattern of lies and irresponsibility by our 43rd President. Almost immediately, the documents were put throug the internet ringer. Both sides of the controversy presented factual information for or against the authenticity of the documents. Every media outlet used the information culled by the bloggers and websites after the facts were already discovered and presented them to the American public. The intricacies of the 1970's model IBM Selectric Composer were dissected and touted and contradicted. The end result is the document's credibility were damaged though the content was reinforced.

The second story involves a man who was allegedly accosted by a crowd of rabid democratic Kerry supporters. According to this poor victim, he went to a Kerry rally to show his support for President Bush and was promptly set upon by a bunch of wild eyed crazy democrats who tore a sign out of his cherubic daughter hands and ripped it to shreds like a pack of mad dogs on a wounded bunny. The only problem. Phil Parlock, the alleged victim, has a history of setting up this kind of publicity for 12 years. He, it was discovered by bloggers, has repeated this same basic ruse 4 times to three different democratic candidates. He was thoroughly completely debunked in a matter of hours but not before his story was repeated by a few lazy and or partisan mainstream media personalities.

According to the television show the X-Files, "The truth is out there." Ironically enough, many of the original fans of that program have now become the ones responsible for finding the truth and sharing it with an ever voracious public. A public who have become emaciated by the table scraps and junk food the mainstream media throws to them. Reporters have become "repeaters" and the media elite have become a free country's worst enemy guided by greed and corporate convergence. Thankfully the truth is getting out and the success of this band of "conspiracy theorists" and "internet whackos" will not be deterred by the barbs and arrows of a threatened entrenched and increasingly irrelevant establishment.

Go forth truth seekers. I am depending on you and so is your country.


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