The free press in free fall

Just as the news gets good, with intelligence from the White House, newspapers become extinct. Locally, everyone complains about the Tidings, but we have no idea of life or community without it. Globally, we live amid the biggest changes since the printing press. Nationally, we are losing the press itself.

Although monopolies own media — which used to be illegal — the liberal Columbia School of Journalism is at fault too. Giants like Charlie Rose and Dan Rather boast that the progressive CBS and PBS allowed them to ask any questions. What they don't take into account is that they didn't ask the questions.

The loss of the Tidings would mean we would become the arty fringe at the southern end of the valley connected by freeway and sprawl. But then, a town that almost lost its library, has little public transport or money for schools, and may lose its "meals taxes" — where tourists pay most of the cost for our exceptional parks — gets what it deserves.

If we lose the newspapers, we lose community and the vital bit of the American Revolution. Europe with all its educated wealth, huge armies, militaristic expertise and thousands of warships was nothing compared to the colony with the first free press. Now we blow it without realizing what we had.

Emergency government support of the press does not mean that government will dictate content. That has already happened without our knowing it. That has already gotten us into a no-win war, turned half the world against us, and destroyed the economy.

Pandemics are caused by agribusiness animals and our Third World slave labor living in their own feces. Any headlines? Drug wars would stop overnight if drugs were legally controlled. Terrorism would stop if we shared profits and power fairly for our own sake. Education is not available. The planet is dying. Journalism's best kept secrets. Straight truth can't be printed; it would be bad for business and that's what journalism is dying for.

Fear-of-lawsuit journalism is not what Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine had in mind. The concern was about separation of church and state — brilliant. Now we need separation of business and the press too. And if you are worried about "socialism" creeping into government, you are thinking back in the '50s. Every 'ism" has something capitalism can learn from.

The internet doesn't fact-check information, TV is about commercials, and both have utterly failed to replace the newspaper. Then there's the resulting word virus called "snark," which infects writing with cruelty as cleverness, personal attacks as human interest, idiocy as ideas, and inflaming as informing. Little in the media of any kind can be believed.

The conflict of our time isn't keeping up with technology but keeping common sense with no sources for the straight story. If you think you get it on Fox, whatever. We need newspapers that are not tree- and paper-based in whatever form they evolve into, at a low cost and containing many opinions. We can't survive without information and everyone's ideas. That's the scoop no one's writing about.

Leah Ireland is a writer living in Ashland.

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