If you know anything, thank a reporter

Is it funny-strange that a blog that comments on reporting and journalism has a category for Woeful Journalism but not one to sing its praises, or is it just funny-sad that there hasn’t been a need to have one?

People who came to journalism post-Watergate and later, like I did, have a lot of complaints about the state of the art/profession/trade as it exists today; I suspect our elders have their own hit parade of infamies that we committed.  But my complaint has never been about how the digital revolution is changing the way information is presented to the reader/listener/viewer/consumer/custo-mer, because to my mind the delivery method is a tertiary concern.  The primary concern should be the content, with a little preserving-and-protecting-a-free-and-independent-press as a secondary.

I’m fine with electronic self-publication (duh!), and there’s not a damn thing wrong with everybody expressing their own beliefs and opinions.  But I don’t ever confuse what I and thousands and thousands of other people do at our own private keyboards with what real, professional reporters do out in the world every day.  Today I ran across two great examples of why that job is hard to do, and why it can be dangerous to do.

When the Earth quakes and the ocean covers the land and nuclear reactors split open, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  When a dictator sends his army against its own people to suppress their expression of a desire for freedom, real reporters go to the danger because that’s where the story is.  Real reporters leave their comfortable homes and go where the news is happening, to observe real events and talk to real people, to report, so the rest of us can know what’s going on.  The biggest risk we stay-at-home bloggers take is suffering a fragmented hard drive.

The next time you hear someone complain about the biased news media, remind them that it’s real reporters, working for all kinds of publications, who provide us all with the raw data that pundits and demagogues misconstrue to suit their own purposes, and that sometimes they risk their lives to do it.  More times than you probably imagine, they lose their lives doing it.  We owe them our thanks and our respect.

→UPDATE Mar. 21: Times reporters released by Libya

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This is history we’re seeing

First Tunisia; then Egypt; then Yemen and Bahrain and Iran, and now Libya, where the country’s ambassador to the UN  has broken with the government, and Qaddafi has ordered the military to attack the people but two fighter pilots flew to Malta and asked for political asylum rather than attack the protesters in Tripoli.

This is just stunning to see: across a part of the world that we Americans just assume has given in to the rule of kings and despots, people are standing up for themselves.  They’re not demanding an Islamic theocracy—they’ve taken to the streets to claim their right to self determination.  Outstanding!

I don’t know if any or all of these popular uprisings will succeed; I don’t know how far the rulers will go to keep their grip on power and privilege.  (I don’t know what the literati of 18th century Europe thought of the first reports of rebellion by the British colonists in the Americas, either.)

But I have a feeling…I think that by this time next year, we’ll see more than a couple of new democratic governments in northern Africa and the Middle East.  We’re witnessing a new birth of liberty, right where we’d have never bet we see it.