As a kid I remember movies and stories glorifying the intrepid reporters who brushed aside the evil power structure and wrote about the truth despite threats to their personal and financial security. My idealistic younger self reveled hearing of reporters who went to jail to protect confidential sources and whistleblowers, and when people were given what they needed to know to get them up off their asses and out into the streets when corruption reared it’s ugly head and the inner circle of powerful people made socially deplorable plans behind closed doors.
In my nearly ten years of college (don’t judge, I started out as a single mom and it’s gotten more complicated from there) I have worked my way from following my dream to discover the lost isle of Atlantis (major: anthropology) to becoming a writer (major: English Literature) to living comfortably in a socially enjoyable career (major: Journalism, focus: Public Relations) to following my dreams a little more remotely (changed focus to Broadcast Journalism) and then back again (what’s my focus? I don’t know, but I want to write).
I do know that I’m ready to produce content for someone, somewhere. Ultimately my dream has remained the same at it’s core: I want to make a difference in the world. To say “change the world” seems too flighty and unrealistic… but it’s the truth.
I remember the swell of pride and nervousness that I felt the first (and honestly, only) time I got to send a FOIA request out in order to get information I thought my story needed to have. When the recipient didn’t respond in due time, phone calls were made… my editors and I wrung our hands greedily waiting for action from our legal counsel and all of it turned out to be in vain.
The request, it was decided by someone at a desk larger and more powerful than my little student post at the Campus news desk, was for information that would be financially damaging to the party in question if released.
The next few years slipped past, like so many depressing infomercials you only half pay attention to while semi-conscious on the couch way past bedtime. I lost a parent, left school, had another child, lost my job, fell into physical disrepair and found myself in a place that I prayed with all my strength was actually rock bottom.
Now that I’m back in school, the requirements for the major have changed to reflect how different the industry actually is. Journalism is about entertainment, media and profit. Investigative Journalism seems to have slipped out of it’s place of honor and the role of news outlets as the “watchdogs of government” has been replaced by articles on the best party appetizers and a constant back-and-forth between conservative and liberal conglomerates flinging accusations about who’s sold out to big business (both?) and what political party has the most corporate hands in it’s pockets. It’s all, forgive the cliche, smoke and mirrors.
What happened to exposing the truth, no matter what the cost? It breaks my heart to think my dream has become the stuff of Lifetime evening movies and the people brave enough to expose excessive power-mongers seeking control have been marginalized and ignored. How many are even left? When did entertainment and profit become more important than integrity and civic responsibility, and why are we just letting this become the norm?
Nowhere is this fallout more pronounced or fundamentally damaging to society than on the local level. The New York Times and the Nation may be great places to read about the American upper echelon and all it’s dirty laundry, but you will never see an article about toxic waste being dumped near the playground at the community center across town.
They don’t care if our city funnels money into making Rockford a tourist destination while our citizens face unacceptable levels of unemployment, violent crime and plummeting standards of public education. They sure as HELL aren’t going to tell you why the city is removing street lights to save on it’s (previously $2.7 million) electric bill, and spending $7 million on a riverwalk.
Please everyone who reads this; find a local news source (or three) you can support, and educate yourself. No one’s going to make you pay attention to the things going on in your community that you need to know -it’s much more profitable to keep you at the computer sinking time into your vegetable garden in Frontierville. That way they know you’ll be safely tucked away if and when the manure hits the socio-economic fan.
We Rockfordians love to complain about our situation, our city, our way of life… we love to bitch about the other guys and the big guys and the different guys. Why not take a stand and do something about it? Go to an Occupy Rockford event or write a letter to the editor at one of our local newspapers?
Do something, for Christ’s sake. If you keep on doing what you’re doing, as my father used to say, you’ll just keep getting what you’re getting.