Opinion v. US Constitution : When Journalism Makes News Instead of Reporting It

Remember this ?

We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Wait! ‘We?’ – The News says ‘They’

Precisely the point. The preamble is rich with words. ‘We,’ ‘ourselves’ and ‘our’ are operative pronouns in the preamble. It’s the mission statement, the executive summary if you will, of the business plan. Any one that knows about business plans understands that while this is the starting point of the plan – it’s the last thing that’s written.

News Makes Good Business

And make no mistake about it – News is Business. These aren’t the days of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ – this is non-stop, push, pull, desktop alert, cable and satellite data transfer of information. As newspapers replaced town criers, the will of the local power was supplanted by the will, in many cases, of the local conscience. These aren’t even the days of William Paley who presided over the construction of one of the most powerful radio and television news trusts, albeit not without considerable warfare within that trust.

Nonetheless, the reporter wasn’t anonymous and the viewer / customer wasn’t treated as so many ants at a church picnic. There was a dynamic relationship between advertisers and their customers, and between TV/Radio programming and those advertisers. There was a dialog – maybe not the way we’ve grown accustomed to now – such as this blog – but it was a powerful dialog, just the same. News wasn’t actually for profit – but was exploited for Brand loyalty and recognition.

Today – News That Suits Your Tastes – News as Sport

All one has to do his decide who you would like to be the good-guys and tune in the appropriate station. Undecided? There’s one for you too. Republicans got your goat? Presidential pains? – There’s a station for you. Do you believe that uni-bomber may have been channeling Adolf Hitler? There’s news programming that will suit your tastes. Not enough T&A at your office? There’s news programming for you too. In fact, whatever your bent – a carefully constructed ‘News-ish’ venue has been carefully and commercially developed to fit your personal gratification needs (as fleeting as they may be) and get you into that fulfilling dog-barking mode by providing you with a comfy home with your virtual team, while hammering the ‘they.’

Today News is a profit center – and – we throw the term around in order to legitimate commentary by labeling it ‘News,’ or suggesting it is a product of a News channel of sorts. Taking a lesson from the sports programmers, one would think that a few journalists would have balked at the MBA’s and marketing types that were taking over managing the News Divisions throughout broadcasting.  But with 1500% increases in compensation for simply changing careers – bingo – the choice is pretty obvious.

News really isn’t news – it’s pretty much all commentary. It was amazing that with the writer’s strike, any news program was able to go on.  Apparently there is a huge cache of scabs that no one realized. One can place a sign by old eggs that reads “Fresh” but they remain old eggs.

What to do ??

Simple – read the constitution for five minutes a day. Just read it. Read the same article everyday for a week. Soon you won’t have to scratch your head or reach for a remote control when you see a politician quoting or misquoting the intentions of framers. Soon you’ll recognize the constitution con jobs from the constitutional care-takers. You may even consider writing a letter that cites specifics. You won’t be forced to only talk about Emerill’s take-over by Martha Stewart. Imagine – in a short time we’ll all know the same stuff and we can take this into consideration when we vote for politicians. We can even argue the fine points of the Constitution with a solution in mind – instead of the joy of the fight. Yikes! We can even collectively turn off most of the nonsense that has been posing as news and discuss solutions – locally, federally and globally. Look how easy it is – just a wee bit of ‘we’ like the Preamble of the Constitution. But, it all starts with you – not them.

If you would like to start reading a little bit of the Constitution each day – the nice folks at Cornell University Law School have made it easy by putting it on-line here.

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6 Responses

  1. RE:

    And make no mistake about it – News is Business. These aren’t the days of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ – this is non-stop, push, pull, desktop alert, cable and satellite data transfer of information.

    I could not have said it any better. Great Article!

    DesktopAlert.Net has been a trendsetter in at least part of the equation and its awareness articles like yours that are so very much appreciated! The people Need to Know. Desktop Alert!

  2. Binx et al, that is a mighty fine article! Too many people are talking about too many opinions without having the benefit of too many facts. That link was a nice bonus.

    I’m encouraged by the young people getting involved as well. Facts though, are fierce tools in an good discussion.

    Thanks again – wonderful perspective and reminder from whence we came.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this article since it was posted. Regarding the constitution, is your position that we should follow it to the letter of the law? As in it being the definitive law of the land. Or for convenience sake, should we consider those portions we don’t follow and have not amended as allegorical?

    One cannot help but conclude that we have strayed from the framers intent of constraining the powers of government. I refer to Amendment X: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

    One recalls prohibition which became the law of the land through the required amendment process. Later to be rescinded through the same legal process. Apparently there was a time in our history when congress and the executive recognized the constraints of the document and acted accordingly.

    I see very few examples of such attitude and respect for the document today.

  4. One specific thought for example. Where does the constitution prohibit me from traveling to Cuba and back. I’ve never had the urge to do so, but what if? This makes me a criminal? As far as I know, I could legally travel to Iraq, if I were careless enough to do so. But Cuba is absolutely off limits? For what reason and by who’s authority. Are we free or not?

  5. Great question and comments.

    First, my opinion, we should use the constitution as it was intended – a guide book for our development as a Nation. Its a living document because it does provide for it being changed. What it doesn’t permit is for the changes to be hidden. Very much like an MS Word document with “track changes” turned on … the Constitution is changed in plain view. This is key to the documents value.

    You cited Prohibition, the 18th Amendment, and its subsequent repeal by the 21st Amendment. That makes the Constitution an encyclopedic instrument as well as the current – general laws that were intended to be some of the mortar that hold the States in concert.

    So to your answer, yes. I believe the Constitution should be the critical guide book. Unlike the Bible (used as analogous to all major religions central tomes) the Constitution has a provision for it to be changed as needed in order to be a more relevant guide book, relevant to what we’ve learned. The Constitution, in other words, empowers those covered under it, to improve it as they improve.

    Your observations are very relevant and share your conclusion. We’ve strayed dramatically from the framer’s intent. Our Supreme Court is full-time work because our Constitution has become a giant game of whack-a-mole. Look at the cases that have been brought before the supreme court. Just this week Exxon is in front of the Supreme Court arguing that they shouldn’t be responsible for any punitive damages because 200 year old Maritime law suggests that ship owners shouldn’t be held responsible for the acts of its crews. This law was put in place because ship owners and captains often didn’t communicate for many months and if crews went renegade, or pirates commandeered them, the ship owner was held harmless, considering he was also a victim.

    Times have changed, yet the revered body of maritime law, much of it still applicable and treated as sacrosanct globally, but the laws didn’t necessarily change. In this case our Supreme Court is asked to decide on the Constitutionality of another courts (3 other courts) decisions using another law and see if they can draw conclusions based on the Constitution. This boils down to very tricky interpretation – or as I like to think of it as – how can Exxon get sympathetic jurists to see their point and get them off the spot. One way of course is to support a President that has no clue of law, the Constitution, history, language or culture – and have corporatist Supreme Court Justices like Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, all appointed by Republican Presidents, reshape the constitutional experience. (I’m very critical of these Judges actions. These are not surprises. They were handpicked because of their extremist positions – so my intention is not to throw insults at them personally – but their judgment and rulings do effect many Americans on a very personal basis.)

    Not only do the Amendments of the Constitution come into play, but so do the decisions – since it is these decisions that create precedent for future cases, which is why there is all the hub-bub about Roe v. Wade.

    So in order to be concise. Yes, I believe we should use the Constitution reverently as a guideline, I believe the States powers have routinely been abrogated by the Federal Government, by entrusting an essentially un-flawed document (by virtue that it provides the ability of the People to change it) to politically engineered, biased and very flawed people, and its ultimate interpretation.

    The abuse of our Constitution hasn’t been confined to any political party although the Court since Reagan’s appointment of Scalia, Bush 41’s – Thomas, and Bush 43’s Roberts and Alito has grown terribly sympathetic to Commerical interests over Human rights and the liberties provided for in the Constitution, but often obscured or suspended by other intra muros agreement, such as the War Powers Act, Patriot Act and the Protect America Act. Very much in the style of the Volstead Act and its sister acts (Collectively ‘Prohibition’) – very dangerous knee jerk abuses of our system that exemplify our fears and flaws.

    We pick our leaders, they essentially, decide who sits on the Supreme Court – and they have done an abysmal job in providing us with the best possible caretakers of our Constitution.

  6. With regards to you comments about Cuba travel – the US Government has essentially by-passed the Constitutionality by making restrictions based on the Treasury Dept.

    Yes a perfect example of manipulating our Constitution or circumventing it. Travel to Cuba requires a license from the Treasury, under the auspices of the Embargo, Trade, Enemy of the US, therefore commerce with Cuba is prohibited. So to travel to Cuba is not prohibited but to spend money there requires a license. If the travel is for tourism, it is not licensable.

    It is very much like putting Capone away for tax evasion with penalty commensurate with murder.

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