by Elliott Stonecipher

Many of us are observing with sadness and angst as the New Orleans Times-Picayune and other historically important American newspapers are handed to cyberspace gods and demons.  The demography of “news” readership is clear:  the poorer and older are far less likely to be “wired” for this transformation.  Newspapers are irreplaceably woven into our American culture for many good reasons, not the least of which is that an informed citizenry, as Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, is the bulwark of democracy.

Considering all that has been written on this important subject, I will make my point more specifically, thanks to the journalists at the Monroe (LA) News-Star.  Please take a couple of minutes to read their article from yesterday’s newspaper.

Broken and should be mourned...

As to the substance of Greg Hilburn’s report, let us stipulate that Louisiana state government is so broken as to negate many of the unique blessings God has provided our state.  This single story, from a newspaper with real journalists still plying one of our nation’s most potentially honorable trades, at once details and proves many key symptoms of our disease.  One reporter, at one newspaper, writes one brief account of something previously unknown to the public, and much we are told by our elected leaders is proven to be completely false.

A notable few of the take-aways from this clinic in godawful government are these:  the extremely high cost of a governor who is A.W.O.L. due to his blind ambition; how embarrassingly lame are his and his staff’s prevarications; how in-over-their-heads are his hand-picked legislative “leaders”; how corrupt the legislative process remains; and, why no one who can remember and speak her or his name should ever believe the solution to Louisiana’s problems is to give these people more of our money.

(NEWSBREAK:  I will pay for a verifiable list of every state government employee – beginning with the governor and his staff, then legislators – who applied for the subject tax rebate without ever mentioning its existence to those of us who put up the money for this hee haw.  And, while I’m at it, I will pay, too, for new information about who asked Bossier City’s former State Representative Jane Smith to author this bill, the role played in its passage by the governor and his closest staff, and the other legislators who joined this cabal that only Huey and Earl could love and appreciate.)

So, we are given free admission to a clinic in how foul our state government truly is.  Most of us, I’d bet, didn’t leave our favorite chair to read this article in the News-Star, a comfort for which we must fairly expect to pay.  One journalist, at one daily newspaper, did what real journalists do, had superiors who did not kill the story because they are in our governor’s tank, and we who give a damn are the beneficiaries.

R.I.P. Real Journalism

Whether Thomas Jefferson said it or not, most of us know it to be fact:  when we cannot find out what our government is doing, truly bad stuff happens … every time, without exception … and real freedom is really diminished.  We don’t need to guess about that fact, either, since our governor and his team deliver us the proof every day.  No administration of which I am aware has so openly demonstrated its disgust with First Amendment protections.  No administration has cared so much about itself and so little about the people it is sworn to serve.  No administration has better demonstrated what things look like when too many in the “news media” can be, uh, shall we say, incentivized to forget what journalism is, and the good government sustenance it uniquely supplies.

In the past, I have written about my carefully framed copy of our nation’s First Amendment, readable on my office wall without a turning my head:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I believe, as do many others, that these few words – ” … or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” – are this nation’s bedrock.  Now that “the press” as we have known and depended on it is going away, we must decide if what it takes with it is unaffordable.  Regardless of its format or means of delivery, journalism must have a protected place in this country … or else.  I am among those who has lived and deeply invested in that belief.

Every healthy place has a “free press"

Every healthy and thriving place has not only a “free press,” but also a fair, community-devoted newspaper.  While we work in our cities and towns to raise money for so many things, it is time in a lot of places to raise “community” money to establish or preserve real journalism and newspapers.  New Orleans is doing this now, and we should all wish them well, contribute if we can, and watch closely to see and understand the outcome.

It matters.  If you don’t believe that, ask our governor what he really thinks about any news media provider he and his bunch do not control.

Elliott Stonecipher

Elliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.