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Upstarts show news media how to do their job

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Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2009 11:00 pm

Students of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism must have taken note when two young amateurs taught big media how to do their job. Their undercover videos of ACORN employees, telling a fake prostitute and her bogus pimp how to break the law, have rattled the world of working journalists.

The two were coached by unwitting ACORN workers on how to scam the IRS as they set up underage girls for business. This, by a high-profile community organization, known for conducting fraudulent activities, i.e. voter registration irregularities; a group with links to our sitting administration.

Most old media have all but ignored these scallywags, which for some reason receive multi-millions in taxpayer dollars. So, in reflection, it’s no surprise that the young showed the way in light of the media’s abdication of its own investigative doctrine.

And, good news for reporter wannabes: you too can grab your recorders and cameras and journalistic ethics (emphasis on ethics, make sure your research is lawful) and go earn your names. Old news operations have lost all rights to claim the industry that is absolutely critical to keeping this nation free. Humongous and entrenched in their egos, they’ve become spin-city; little more than high-priced billboards, hawking paid-for messages.

Now famous, 25-year old James O’Keefe and 20-year old Hannah Giles claim the head of the class unless ACORN backers can successfully destroy their reputations. These “news kids” filled a vacuum where investigative reporting once was and hopefully there will be more where they came from.

The episode is graphic exposure of where media fails: endless numbers of news operations reclined on their duffs and let ACORN skid right on up to the trough, slurping up millions of taxpayer dollars despite persistent rumors of deep-rooted corruption.

The media crisis, and I do believe it’s bigger than any other we face, has registered with the public. Polls show at least two-thirds do not trust their news sources. According to one researcher, “The networks abdicated their authority with the American public,” years ago.

Tim Rosenstiel, a Pew researcher and analyst, reported in the Washington Post that the news industry was missing, following the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Rosenstiel said then of mainstream news operations: “The prestige and influence of their news divisions no longer matter much to them. They have signaled that they are now almost entirely economic institutions.”

It’s fair to add, Washington politics also dominate their boardrooms, an unforgiveable sin in the world of journalism. Further, we’re facing rumblings of intrusive, government controls over certain media, which has responded to this void. Most assuredly, signs of worse to come.

“What is disappearing is an idealism about the potential of TV as a medium to better our politics and society,” Rosenstiel said.

This is a time when many are looking for a new career path. Again, journalism is open territory; the trick is to find a mother ship, which re-embraces the art; which sees the lucrative market of information presented without bias. It’s ironic, isn’t it? There’s always been money in a real story. When did the old guard lose track of that?

Our nation, on all levels is fat with such stories, and begging for takers. And, yes, the Web and its bloggers are an asset, but are limited by the medium. However it unfolds, it will be the youth who will rebuild this country, and now we see, James and Hannah clearly have the passion to reinstate what has been lost.

 

Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television news anchorwoman who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at letters@lindastake.com.

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