Sunday, April 20, 2008
(9:46 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On Blaming the Lazy JournalistsTo talk about the laziness of the press corps in general, without reference to the economic situation in which the majority of journalists find themselves, is to buy into the notion that journalists should simply be "working for love." Marc Bousquet has discussed this phenomenon at length in relation to academia. Educators' sincere love of teaching and concern for their students provides a hook that allows their employers to exploit them more and more, paying them poverty wages and offering no job security.
In the journalistic context, the parallel would likely be fairly close: a reporter would be spending significant chunks of their own time investigating a story in detail, with no guarantee that their work would be published or help them professionally. In fact, in an atmosphere of continual "cuts," the idea of professional advancement is limited to writing a story that makes a big enough splash to allow the reporter to move on to a more prestigious, and presumably more stable, news outlet -- and so any time spent covering the local "beat" would be a waste. (Obviously my main source here is The Wire.)
The contemporary press and the contemporary university are two great examples of the destructive effects of inserting the profit motive into every area of life. Publishing is facing similar pressure, and health care is perhaps the biggest example. In each case, we are dealing with an inherently non-profit enterprise that, on average, needs to make only enough money to cover its expenses. When such enterprises are absorbed into capitalist enterprises, they are deeply distorted if not destroyed -- the health care system becomes a bureaucracy dedicated to finding more and more reasons to deny health coverage, publishing becomes a myopic quest to find the next mega-best-seller, journalism becomes stenography and sensationalism, universities become endowment-growing machines. And for what? Who benefits? A few individuals, certainly, but the ultimate beneficiary is just money itself -- more and more money gets stockpiled. It's absolute nihilism, and it's increasingly the structuring principle of every institution in American society.