Saturday, 30 March 2013 17:51 GFP Columnist - G. Tod Slone
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In the past journalism was an act of courage, revealing truths in the face of powerful establishments and risking jail or even death. Today [journalism] is becoming the refuge of disconnected cowards.- NassimTaleb, essayist et al
 
To the rest of us free speech is far more sacred because when it is attacked there’s a lot more at stake than just feelings.- Pat Condell
 
Democracy fails when the local press refuses to publish newsworthy stories and/or the pros AND cons of stories published, especially when local citizens try their best to attract the press’ attention and political appointees are involved.  In Barnstable, MA, where I live, not one of the local presses would publish the story I brought to their attention regarding my permanent trespass from publicly-funded Sturgis Library without warning or due process. 


 In fact, that very punitive action clearly supported my assertion (written criticism that led to the banning of not only me, but my ideas) that the director of the library, Lucy Loomis, was a flaming hypocrite because she did not follow written library policy that clearly stipulates her library “should challenge censorship” and “provide materials and information presenting all points of view”.
 
Thus, I put together a simple, reasonable proposal to require any library receiving public funding from the Town of Barnstable be accountable to the public.  But the Town Manager and town councilors, amongst others, simply chose to ignore it.   Welcome to Barnstable:  Where Good Ole British Taxation without Representation Still Exists.  Now, if that had been the inscription on the sign when entering town, I never would have moved here.  In any case, neither the Cape Cod Times nor Barnstable Patriot would report on my proposal.  Why?  Was the idea simply too outside the chamber-of-commerce box to even contemplate?
  

 More recently, I noticed a hagiographical article written by David Stills II, editor of the Barnstable Patriot, regarding the possible/probable naming of Dan Santos to be director of the local Department of Public Works.  So, I wrote a shorter critical piece on Santos, who had been serving as vice president of the trustees for Sturgis Library, and had essentially dismissed my fight for freedom of expression, due process, transparency, and accountability as mere “intellectual masturbation.”  One must ask how a person with eight years in the U. S. Navy ends up considering those things in such a derogatory and offensive manner.  Well the editor of Prime Time, another Cape Cod news organ, Erin C. Healy, also spent time in the military and proved equally hostile to my questioning and challenging of authority figures, and exercise of the First Amendment.  Perhaps service in the military (and police) more likely instill in-the-box conformist thinking and deference to authority no matter how corrupt than respect for freedom and those who seek it. 
 
So, I sent the letter to Stills who, to my surprise, actually responded this time.  Why, I’m not sure.  Perhaps his inner core journalist had pushed harder than usual upon his outer core chamber of commerce?   In other words, perhaps he still possessed a sense of what a real journalist should be and do.  But I’ll never know for sure. 
 
Good to hear from you, G. Tod.
While I disagree with your premise of who knows who and how things are influenced, it’s never been my place to tell people what they should believe.
Look for your letter this week.
David

 
Good to hear from me?  Hmm.  Well, it was encouraging that he was going to publish my letter to the editor, but the days passed and it did not appear.   So, I contacted the editor again.  He responded, wanted me to make a few changes in the letter.  So, I made the changes, then sent it back to him.  Again the days went by and no letter appeared.  So I wrote back.  He responded that he wanted to talk with Santos about the points I’d evoked.  Fine.  But more days went by, so I wrote back again, then again, but Stills never responded, and thus unintentionally confirmed my premise of who knows who.
 
Paul  Pronovost , editor of the Cape Cod Times, the other local newspaper, simply did not respond.  He, Stills, and other journalists without journalistic principles ought to examine the “Code of Ethics,” published by the Society of Professional Journalists, including and especially the following stipulations:
 
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
- Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
- Give voice to the voiceless.
 
My experience with the local press, as an unconnected, if not disconnected and fully alienated, citizen, has provoked me to become critical of it and to wonder what behind-the-scenes relationships may or may not exist and how such relationships might work to suppress newsworthy stories. 
 
Most people today would perhaps likely not deny the press to be agenda-driven.  The New York Times and Washington Post, for example, are clearly left-wing and pro-Obama, whereas the WashingtonTimes and Fox News are right-wing and anti-Obama.  So, if one wanted to read interesting points about the Benghazi cover-up, for example, one would best consult the Washington Times and/or Fox News.   But, if one wanted to read some interesting points on Islam’s incursions into the Western world, even the latter might not be the best bet due to the part ownership of Fox News by the Muslim Brotherhood (Qatar).   Best instead consult Europe News.dk or Politically-Incorrect.de.  Thanks to the Internet, one can find stories journalists without journalistic principles refuse to report.
 
Most of the local press tends also to be agenda-driven.  Some, perhaps most, of it tends to be smiley-faced and celebrity-driven, and in that sense, diversionary from the corruption inherent in local power.  The main problem confronting the press today, local and national, and perhaps even democracy itself, is that issues of freedom of speech and expression, those very cornerstones of democracy, seem to have taken a back seat to the demands of advertising and an easily offended readership.  Yet democracy cannot survive if the populace is encouraged to be easily offended. 
 
Researching a satirical cartoon idea on the Cape Cod Times, I discovered the existence of the New England Newspaper and Press Association, which accorded a number of awards to the Times.  Its NENPA University webpage is quite revealing in its complete absence of statements on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  The page is entirely devoted to advertising workshops and training sessions in lieu of sessions promoting and understanding freedom of speech. 
 
As editor of a small nonprofit journal of literature, democracy, and dissidence,I fully encourage readers to send harsh criticism of me and the journal, and always publish the harshest received.  Criticism helps one improve.  Without it, one does not improve.  Without it, one can, however, maintain the illusion of excellence, the kind editor Paul Pronovost likes to boast:
 
This was an amazing showing by every member of the staff, and a testament to how dedicated the journalists of the Cape Cod Times are to delivering the best work in word, picture, illustration and video.  That fact was never more evident than on Saturday, when the staff stayed on the Cape to deliver the latest news on the storm to readers rather than attend the awards event.
 
Perhaps those who like to pat themselves on the back a la Pronovost are not doing such a wonderful job after all.  Indeed, how does one pat oneself on the back while simultaneously ignoring the “Code of Ethics” established in one’s own profession?  Why indeed are so many editors like Pronovostso reluctant to publish criticism with their regard and in that refusal transgressthe “Code of Ethics,” as in “Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media”? 
 
Santoseventually became director of the DPW, likely thanks to connections, not to mention his desire for a six-figure income, as opposed to real public service, so my counterpoint letter was no longer pertinent.  But Stills’ rejection of that letter when it was pertinent shames the profession, offering a clear example of dereliction of journalistic duty and bureaucracy’s supremacy over democracy.   If the press refuses to publish counterpoint regarding public appointees, then something really is rotten in Denmark, or rather in Barnstable, Massachusetts.  If it refuses to publish cold facts, as in local citizen permanently trespassed without due process because of written criticism, then something is indeed rotten. 
 
G. Tod Slone is a regular Contributor to the GFP as an Editorial Cartoonistclick here to visit his Page!
 
Image: G. Tod Slone



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