Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Journalists -- Hungry for What?

"Hungry journalists" is an old cliche. Like most cliches, it has some truth in it.

To begin with, many of the college graduates who majored in journalism and mass communication must be literally starving. According to the "2003 Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates," their median salary is a paltry $26,000, unchanged since 2000 (Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad, Amy Jo Coffey, and Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, August 5, 2004, p. 1) -- adjusted for inflation, "salaries have actually declined by $1,600 since 2000" (August 5, 2004, p. 10). Worse, "[o]nly 56.1% of the 2003 journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients" and "64.6%" of the master's degree recipients held a full-time job on October 31, 2003 (August 5, 2004, p. 2, 4), and "[l]ess that eight in ten" lucky full-timers "reported having a basic medical plan as part of their employment" (August 5, 2004, p. 1). Even journalists who managed to survive lean years at the beginning of their careers are doing worse than their counterparts in 1970: "The median salary for journalists rose to $43,588 in 2001. . . . [However, i]n 2001, journalists would have needed to earn a median salary of about $50,700 to have had the same buying power as in 1970, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics" (David Weaver, Randal Beam, Bonnie Brownlee, Paul Voakes, and G. Cleveland Wilhoit, "The American Journalist in the 21st Century: Key Findings," April 2003).

Moreover, it must be said that, notwithstanding most American journalists' abject failure to challenge Washington's censorship of the coverage of the Iraq War and other burning issues, there are still courageous journalists -- like Dahr Jamail, Jeffrey St. Clair, Tim Shorrock, Jane Slaughter, JoAnn Wypijewski, and the late Gary Webb, to name a few -- who are truly hungry for truth.

I'm afraid, though, that the most comfortably employed journalists -- and those who aspire to join their rank -- in the United States today may be just hungry for well-catered parties. Dave Zirin calls attention to a specimen of this species: T. A. Frank of The New Republic ("New Republic Calls for Death and Torture of Arundhati Roy and Stan Goff," CounterPunch, January 31, 2005). Frank was dying to attend "a genuine inaugural ball with tuxedos and presidential seal-emblazoned square napkins and succulent miniature crab cakes" ("Left Out," The New Republic, February 7, 2005). His genuine longing for pomp and circumstances, disguised as humor, is certainly in keeping with the business ethos of The New Republic, the ethos that comes into intriguing contradiction with the magazine's bedrock commitment to uncritical Zionism:
Participants in a panel discussion sponsored by The New Republic and Saudi Arabia are claiming that their most hard-hitting criticisms of the kingdom were edited out of a transcript that appeared in the magazine.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For the past two years, The New Republic has held monthly public policy discussions in conjunction with business sponsors such as United Parcel Service, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the American Gas Association.

Through September The New Republic reportedly had suffered a 14.1% drop in advertising pages over the prior year. The magazine, according to the Mediaweek Monitor, an industry trade publication, entered into a mid-six-figure deal with the Saudi government in exchange for running 12 ad pages and four panel discussions. (Eric Marx, "Panelists Claim New Republic Cut Their Anti-Saudi Remarks," Forward, January 9, 2004)
Anyhow, left out of the ball due to his failure to meet "certain press-credentialing deadlines" and consequently "missing what might be lovely canapes (or perhaps spring rolls brought about on trays with delectable dipping sauce)," Frank takes it all out on the subjects that he was assigned to cover instead: anti-war activists and organizers at a counter-inauguration event held "in a low-budget church on G Street in downtown Washington" (Frank, February 7, 2005).

According to the article, Frank became incensed when Stan Goff reportedly said, "We ain't never resolved nothing through an election" (Frank, February 7, 2005), and he dreamt of a Republican Terminator "like Arnold, who would walk up to him [Goff] and punch him in the face" (February 7, 2005). Never mind the fact that the majority of Americans, sensibly suspecting that US elections costing billions of dollars are confirmations of plutocracy rather than democracy, refuse to participate in them. Such a blasphemous thought must be beaten out of the heretic's system in this land of the Buy-One-Get-One-Free -- except that Frank doesn't have the guts to challenge Goff -- a former soldier in Army Special Operations (Delta Force, Rangers, and Special Forces) turned the author of the acclaimed Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti and other works -- to a fight.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, it was women on the left -- Sherry Wolf pointing out that Iraqis have the right to resist foreign occupation and quoting from a speech by Arundhati Roy who argues that, "if we are only going to support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity" -- that really made Frank see Red. Frank "even forgot about the Constitution Ball for a minute" and could think of nothing but a proper measure to purge the Reds: "I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation" (February 7, 2005). His hyperbolic conclusion ends with a more violent fantasy: "sometimes, you just want to be on the side of whoever is more likely to take a bunker-buster to Arundhati Roy" (February 7, 2005).

What to do about a hatchet piece like Frank's? Zirin suggests that letters to the editor and information pickets may be in order:
E-mail to let them know what you think. We are also considering a picket of the New Republic Offices, for those interested. (January 31, 2005)
Kurt Nimmo, answering Zirin's call, has already written a letter: "New Republic Writer Threatens the Lives of Anti-war Activists" (Another Day in the Empire, January 31, 2005).

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