Behind the Curtain at TMM

Excuse Me While I Rant

Maybe it's because I've been watching respected media organizations hemorrhaging revenue and staff over many years now that I have a hard time with the media guilt trip.

On any day, I can read blogs written by people who I envision sitting at home in their bunny slippers, drinking a latte, and going on and on about how the "media" are "ignoring" x, y, or z. And half the time I want to say to these people, hey, why don't YOU KWITCHERBEEFIN, go buy a ticket to Haiti or Afghanistan or Iraq, and then YOU can tell me about it when you get there.

Or better yet, send in your pledge to NPR and we'll go for you.

(Sorry, I had to go there.)

I am just saying there is no such thing as "free" content. That tree that falls in the forest with nobody to hear it and all that? Somebody has to go. They have to go buy the ticket and the supplies, whatever those happen to be (the satellite phone, the laptop, the food) and go. And they need a way to distribute the work or it has no meaning.

Reporting without an audience is called writing in your diary. And while that might be very interesting to future generations, it doesn't do us much good in the here and now.

Most times, those people who do this work would like to be paid, because they have families too and if they die or get hurt — which does happen — they'd like their families to have something to live on. And the news consuming public should WANT them to be paid, preferably BY the news consuming public, so the work is not beholden to this or that sponsor. Can you imagine? Journalists going out to work covered by Penzoil stickers or whatever?

What's up with that?

I say all that NOT to shut off conversation about appropriate critique (goodness knows, I have benefited from many of the sharp points added by people who write in to us, both the people I agree with and the people I don't, or more to the point, the point who don't agree with an approach I've taken. Frankly, we've gotten some great ideas). Rather, I am trying to say I don't approach the stories I want to do with a chip on my shoulder about what OTHER people are doing or not doing. I'm just trying to do the best I can.

So, yes, I am ranting but this is also a long way of getting to why I am so glad we were able to get the AP's long-time Haiti reporter, Jonathan Katz, on the program today. He has the depth and context that is so necessary and yet, increasingly rare. He's been reporting full-time from the Island of Hispaniola for some years now, first from the Dominican Republic side and since 2007, from Haiti. He knows the place. And so his perspectives are valuable, not just because he's there now, but because he knows who the key players are, what it was like before, and what it's like everyday.

This is not to take anything away from our folks and all the other fine reporters who have been making reporting trips there; we are grateful for their reporting. But there's something about being in a place before, during, and after a crisis.

So thanks, Jonathan. Here's the question for the rest of us: how long will we — and I mean we, the readers and listeners and viewers — support the Jonathans out there? Or are we just going to sit back in our bunny slippers and throw brickbats?

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