… by the 1990’s, the decline of family-run newspapers and the rise of corporate media empires had converted American journalism into just another profit center where the only thing that mattered was will it sell, and will it outsell our competitors?  Scare stories, exaggeration, trumped up conflict, and sexual scandal, all cut up into tiny digestible pieces, were often more profitable. (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, in The Pursuit of Happiness

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Let’s face it, the print press and mass news media has radically and fundamentally changed in the last 20-30 years and it has morphed into something quite akin to what psychologist Haidt describes.  The space between tabloid and daily news has narrowed or been extinguished – and make no mistake, the vaunted press and mass media outlets DO NOT write stories about this story.

Unnamed sources.  Leaks.  Receiving national security documents and writing about them without ever releasing their exact wording.  Allegations that suggest, but do not prove, wrongdoing – personal, private, and transactional.  Character assassination.  Secretly collaborating with one candidate and Party to the exclusion of others without ever so much as a reprimand once the collusion is discovered. This is the press today!

Does this not put President Trump’s comments on “fake” news in proper perspective.

Having practiced law for a good long time, I can tell you that no one squeals louder than one whose mischief is plainly and openly identified. There is, you can safely deduce, not an excess of humility among the population and less so among those who consider themselves “special” and “important.”  Enter the press.

Make no mistake, democracy is weakened in direct proportion to the ethical decline in journalism and the news media.

I am often disgusted when I realize that despite a cadre of talking heads and newsmen and women, we rarely see anything reported put in historical perspective so that we might glean from yesterday a greater understanding of what we see and experience today.

What do I mean?

Language matters and the news media traffics in language. Yet, we do not recall that England faced a similar moment in the first half of the 20th century.

Men like Chesterton, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis wrote and spoke loudly in opposition to degradation of the English language and the resultant decline and degradation of the nation’s social order.

As Chesterton said – others were long on words, but short on thought.  His view – those who speak were light on mental labor, “too indolent to think …”

C.S. Lewis saw popular language in 20th century England as deceptive and morally degenerative in its use.  He saw “concrete realities … obscured by abstract words.” He mimics his colleague George Orwell who saw that “language can … corrupt thought.”

What is the bottom line for today?  The press and news media deal in language. Language shapes thoughts. The press and news media ain’t what they used to be.  Times have changed.  Few ideas or truths reside in tabloid journalism.

Shalom.

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