Sunday morning it was most obvious, again.
Often the Sunday newspapers are the edition when powerful stories are reported on page one, or a series starts that examines a topic that is not possible to thoroughly address in only one day.
The Washington Post blasted its way to the must-read category with the start of their international investigation series of powerful people on the world stage using secretive offshore system financing to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, and criminal investigators.
The story is simply devastating to the likes of King Abdullah II of Jordan. It is reported that he secretly spent more than $106 million on lavish homes in the U.S. and Britain. Nearly $70 million was paid for three adjacent properties overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, forming one of the largest bluff-top complexes in the celebrity enclave of Malibu.
What is the undercurrent to this particular case is that Jordan, a close U.S. ally, has been roiled in recent years by public discontent over alleged government corruption.
I would urge my readers to spend some time with the news story as it is well researched and written.
But the reason for this post comes with a question. Where would a story like this fit into the world of television news?
With time limits and the way consultants micro-manage content the series would never find its way on the news, with sufficient substance, so to allow viewers any idea of the scope of the financial manipulation involved.
While the facts of the story about international intrigue matter, so does the fact that newspapers, themselves, matter. And we all need to be mindful of what is happening to the newspaper profession.
I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)
We are in fact going to suffer tremendously for the loss of accountability that the papers provide to insure our government has journalistic oversight, a loss of a daily record of events that makes for historical documentation, and a sense of commonality that allows us to have some overall reference point as a nation.
I say this because the morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world.
As the Post made most clear this morning.
But let us consider this from a local perspective.
What would happen if local newspaper reporters were not at their jobs to hold our state leaders accountable. I can only assume that the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly would snicker if a blogger showed up to investigate a legislative scandal. On the other hand with pen and notepad in hand, a reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal sends a message when entering a room with a question and a barrel of ink. (OK, the ink part is dated, but your blogger came from the nostalgic era when reading a newspaper left a darkness to one’s fingers.)
The point of this post is that there is always a real level of concern about the need to monitor government and policies. That can not be done on the cheap, or by amateurs. After all, while many like to grouse about the press, let us not forget they are professionals, and do much to keep us free and safe.
Today a national newspaper made that point most clearly.
And so it goes.