The trouble with journalism today

My daughter is studying journalism in high school this year. I was pleasantly surprised that they still teach the basics of quality journalism: the inverted pyramid, the “five w’s and h,” and objectivity. I say surprised because I hardly see this type of journalism anymore. When I wrote for my high school paper in the post-Watergate 1970s, journalists were heroes — brave seekers of the truth against corruption and unchecked power. Now, we get partisan hacks who manipulate facts (or make things up) to defend their political point of view. Or we get the ignorant and vacuous reporter who lacks the intellectual curiousity and integrity to get the story right.

Case in point was the recent coverage of the Chilean mine rescue. I was amazed and disappointed with some of inane things that came out of those reporters’ mouths.

So, here is a little quiz about Chile. You don’t need a degree in Latin American studies to answer these questions, but your answers (or desire to find them) will show what type of journalist you would be.

  1. Where is Chile located?
    1. South America.
    2. Alton Shopping Center near the Edwards 21 Theatres…oops, I thought you meant Chili’s.
    3. I don’t know, but it looks too clean and technically advanced to be in some dirty third-world continent.
  2. What language do they speak in Chile?
    1. Spanish with some indigenous languages.
    2. Was too busy talking about what a great journalistic event this was to pay too much attention.
    3. Mexican.
  3. Who is the president of Chile?
    1. Sebastián Piñera.
    2. Sebastian Pinera (because I don’t know how to type those curly things over the n).
    3. Augusto Pinochet (and if he isn’t, by thunder, he should be!)
  4. What enabled the miners to escape?
    1. The courage of the miners, the determination of Chilean government officials to get them out safely, and technical expertise and equipment donated from all over the world.
    2. The thought of having sex with their wives/girlfriends/mistresses when they got out.
    3. American ingenuity, American capitalism, American technical superiority, and God. But mostly American ingenuity.
  5. Which of these Chileans contributed the most to world culture?
    1. Pablo Neruda.
    2. Snooki.
    3. Augusto Pinochet (and watching him bomb that commie rat Allende in the presidential palace still makes my heart pound with joy).

If you answered most of these questions with the letter b, you can have a fine career as a journalist for CNN and most other TV news outlets (provided that you have nice hair, or if you’re a woman, shapely legs.) If you answered most of these with c, you can have a successful right-wing blog like the Drudge Report, WorldNetDaily, or Breitbart.

If you answered all of these questions with the letter a, you’re right! But you have no future in the mainstream news media.