On Sunday October 12th, 2008 my wife and I visited the Newseum in Washington D.C with a friend form out of town. Outside the fine new building, by the entrance, are twenty six display boxes that showcase the daily front pages of a cross-section of the national printed media, all in a row.
Out of twenty-six front pages only six featured the implosion of the financial sector, the seizing-up of credit and the probable purchase of shares in the banking sector by the Federal Government. On arguably the most important and fear-filled day in the last seventy years in the history of the United States the national press appears to have buried its collective head in the sand, ignored the wider world and talked bunkum. You would never know that the financial futures of the readership were on the line, that 401Ks were threatened and that the country faced a fierce recession, with increasing job losses and bankruptcies, and that this could possibly mean the beginning of the end of the U.S as the super-power.
These are samples of what the regional newspapers considered important to their readers (in the interests of fairness I have to say that the economy might well have been mentioned on inside pages. But inside pages?)
Sioux City Journal: “Boy Scouts are back at camp”.
The Athens Banner-Herald: “Five served booze to minors, go to jail”.
Daily Sentinel: ” Shooter Kills well-known GJ dentist, retired teacher”.
Southeast Missourian: “VP coming to Cape for Fundraiser”. (The VP refers to Cheney)
Honolulu Advertiser: “Non-Profits Plan: Sit Tight”
Journal & Courier: “Juvenile Center could fall Victim to Economy”
Sunday Morning Sentinel: “First Dude visits, Todd Palin stumps for G.O.P ticket at stop in Palmyra”
While the above doesn´t claim to be an exhaustive survey of the media, it does help to explain why the American public is so badly informed. These regional journals (newspapers?) whether they lean towards the Democrats or the Republicans, pander to the interests of a local community that they deem uninterested in the world outside. Faced with dumbed-down television, where some ads are more interesting than the content, many turn to local radio, which features pop music, religious programs or talk shows, some of them very partisan and unreliable. Where can a person with an enquiring mind and an interest in the world, in business and the economy turn for information? Not the local Press by the look of it. This is no way to maintain an informed democracy.