print the news and raise hell

Today, http://www.journalism.org/ , released this study about coverage of the war in Iraq. The survey was conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and the results are bizarre and extremely troublesome to an idealistic journalist still in college.

To note:

Even the basics of getting the story are remarkably difficult. Outside of the heavily-fortified Green Zone, most U.S. journalists must rely on local staff to do the necessary face-to-face reporting. Yet nearly nine out of ten journalists say their local staff cannot carry any equipment—not even a notebook—that might identify them as working for the western media for fear of being killed. Some local staffers do not even tell their own families.

If American journalists are not doing the reporting, but relying on a third party to bring them information, how can media audiences in the United States think they are getting anything close to what is actually going on in Iraq?

Nine out of ten of the journalists surveyed said that at least half of Baghdad is too dangerous to visit. Too dangerous to visit! The news I read every day about this war-- where does it come from? Iraqi journalists undercover for the Western media? The truth about what is going on in that country is not being reported, long story short, and it's more than just adverse conditions. The embedding program sucks, and the fact that Western journalists can't go anywhere without body armor, guards and armored trucks should say more about the validity of this war than their reporting could.

Above all, the journalists—most of them veteran war correspondents—describe conditions in Iraq as the most perilous they have ever encountered, and this above everything else is influencing the reporting. A majority of journalists surveyed (57%) report that at least one of their Iraqi staff had been killed or kidnapped in the last year alone—and many more are continually threatened. “Seven staffers killed since 2003, including three last July,” one bureau chief wrote with chilling brevity. “At least three have been kidnapped. All were freed.”

Eight out of ten journalists felt that conditions for storytelling in Iraq have gotten worse, not better, much like the situation in the country.

And yet, we go on, placating ourselves with platitudes.

Whatever the problems, a magazine reporter offered, “The press….have carried out the classic journalistic mission of bearing witness.”

Lady (this sounds like a female sentence, so whatever), you are nuts. We are not here to bear witness. We are here to print the news and raise hell. Ask tough questions, tell tough stories and inform the public.

Which media outlet has run a story about the dangers faced by its reporters, the terribly unstable and unsafe conditions, even in Baghdad? What media outlets have called for our withdrawal from this insanity? Who is pushing the politicians to be accountable for civilian deaths and government secrecy?

Tell the story of how bad it is there. Let us know it's getting worse, not better. You are there. We are not. Be a journalist, not an objective, impassive channel for facts.

Facts are not news, and accuracy doesn't necessarily equate truth. These are the realities of journalism in the 21st century, and if somebody doesn't get up and realize that our passion is our greatest tool and our greatest weapon, we're all going to be replaced by robots who can make phone calls.