An Ode to Citizen Journalists

Why are newspapers published?

Simple question, right? But there is one group of (theoretically) educated people who, when asked, find themselves at a loss. 

I know what I'm talking about: During my thirty years in journalism, I've interviewed dozens of candidates who were hoping to be hired as a reporter or editor. 

I asked each one: Why are newspapers published? In thirty years, no recent graduate of a journalism school has known the answer. 

This isn't a trick question. Candidates coming in from other fields mostly knew the answer, though they sometimes hedged their bets, trying to guess what I wanted to hear. 

But those who had been formally, laboriously studying the industry were simply baffled.

That's why I've been so pleased in recent years to hear so many people step up to criticize the media and point out the liberal bias that so thoroughly pervades it. 

When I took my first job at a newspaper, I was a 22-year-old liberal. But within two years, I was chafing at the hypocrisy. We had to pretend our coverage was unbiased, and worse, we had to pretend we had no biases. How smart do you have to be to realize neither is possible?

Recent revelations that Walter Cronkite worked with '60s radicals to promote their goals via his position as CBS News anchor shouldn't be a surprise. We know Cronkite was simply institutionalizing his ill-informed opinion when he said America couldn't win in Vietnam. We know he was flat-out lying when he said the Tet Offensive produced a massive defeat for American troops.

What's a little fellow travelership with some lefties when you've already led America down your own particular primrose path?

Of course, Cronkite wasn't alone. He was joined in lockstep by liberals across the nation. The only alternative sources of news at the time were a few very small circulation conservative magazines, most importantly National Review. NR was a great magazine, but it was far too cerebral to create a large readership. We had to wait for Rush. 

Frankly, Rush is not to my taste, but that's beside the point. Rush helped an awful lot of people who simply assumed they were liberals discover their true political orientation.

How is it possible that some people assumed they were liberals? 

Because at that time, everyone knew that conservatives were evil. People who thought of themselves as kind and compassionate simply assumed, ipso facto, that they must be liberal. 

I was one of them. It was only through reading National Review that I realized that liberalism values feeling good over doing good. That's when I jumped ship. I'm glad I had the self-confidence to do so, because when I jumped, I put my career in serious jeopardy.

If that sounds self-congratulatory, I apologize. I could always get a job -- I just had to keep my head down and my mouth shut. There are some people who are brave enough to really risk it all to ensure that American freedom and American exceptionalism are celebrated and maintained. If you think being a conservative at a newspaper is tough, step right up to the academy. Those are my heroes. 

Conservatives don't go into journalism for three reasons: 1) the pay sucks, 2) they're not welcome, and 3) they can't stand the hypocrisy.  

We're finally making progress toward rending the veil of "objectivity" that has hidden the motives and actions of our media for too long.

If you need proof of the impact of today's citizen journalists, take a look at this week's news, which includes Michigan Senator Bruce Patterson's decision to introduce legislation that will require licensing standards for reporters. 

Patterson explained the dangers of unregulated reporters to, saying some reporters are uninformed, and some (gasp!) work for publications he's unfamiliar with. He wants to put in a system that will help citizens determine who is trustworthy.

Keep in mind that until very recently, most "known" news sources were located in the Bosnywash belt, or in southern California. They ate, drank, and digested only liberal thought. Hell, some actually believed they were providing both sides of a political argument when they provided the views of the far-left and the middle-left. They were unaware of any other views. 

Those are the "trustworthy" sources Patterson wants Michiganders to turn to. Fortunately, the Constitution has something to say about that.

I recently attended a state press association convention in which the question was asked: Should bloggers and other news providers on the web receive the same constitutional protections extended to those in the traditional media?

I was the only person who agreed that they should. Another member of the audience spoke for the majority, saying these protections should apply only if the citizen journalists are required to "follow the same rules as us."

To which I can only reply: "What rules?"

Rules are guidelines that, when broken, produce consequences. There are no rules for journalists; there are only the guidelines established by each publication. I can start a print magazine today that is biased, cretinous, filled with errors, and just generally a load of crap, and I will enjoy all the privileges afforded by the Constitution. I think I'll call it The Nation. 

A.J. Liebling long ago noted that freedom of the press extends only to the fellow who owns a press. Well guess what? These days, we are all press owners.

That's why I just want to say thank you to all you citizen journalists. To those who read their words, congratulations. Keep it up.

By the way, do you know why newspapers are published?

Over the years, I've been dished up a ton of self-congratulatory crapola by J-School grads. In fact, the answer is simple: Newspapers are published in order to make money for the publisher.

Theodore Dawes is a freelance writer in Mobile, Alabama.