Today is the day that hundreds of newspapers across the country carry editorials to disclaim the idea that “The press is the enemy of the people.” With every repetition of this lie, it gets stranger and sicker. Back to Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin, voices offering a free and open critique of political affairs have been central to a stable democracy. While many of us have noticed that the United States of America is – at this point in time – neither stable nor democratic, the fact remains that we tend to listen only to the voices we already agree with.
All of us tend to do that.
I’ve written a number of editorials over the years about the local news media in Culver City, and why it does not work well. Part of it has to do with that fact cited above – we like to read what we know we will agree with. But it also has to do with an odd stinginess, that we don’t want to pay for news. The absurd number of editors who rotated through the Culver City News over the last decade had a lot to do with Community Media Corp. just being cheap. The number of writers who have had their paychecks bounce at The Culver City Observer is a much larger number. and advertisers who say they have been ripped off by the Observer are legion. But the CC News and the Observer will show up in the driveway, and sit in a stack at the YMCA, and people will read them, because they are free.
Ironically, a truly free press costs money.
The Los Angeles Times has been close to death on multiple occasions over the last decade, finally coming back to local control earlier this year. The New York Times is roaring, with close to a billion new online subscriptions since the White House decided that free press was a bad thing. Some of us have made a commitment to understanding that we need a free press. We have done that by subscribing.
Certainly, Community Media Corp. will continue to fund the CC News from the profit they make on their other businesses. Certainly, Sorrento’s Market will continue as the anchor sponsor and controlling interest at the Observer. As the great A.J. Leibling noted, freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.
Culver City Crossroads was created ten years ago to give Culver City a place to exchange ideas and perspectives. I cannot even begin to count the the number of times I have been derided for being “on their side” by people who only want to hear one side of the story. That is not what Crossroads is about. And the benefits of writing for a small town are also the challenges of writing for small town; nothing is ever forgotten or forgiven. But that is grist for the mill. Everyone’s story deserves to be told.
I come up against my limits; I tried to get the story on why Symantec decided to be the first big corporation to stop giving discounts to the NRA. But I couldn’t put in the time needed to dig into it. Symantec was not forthcoming, and I had to be at one of my other jobs, the ones that allow me to feed my family. I tried to get the story on why CCUSD Superintendent Josh Arnold resigned in a midnight rush – again, the facts were not going to open themselves, and after days spent fruitlessly chasing leads at WLAC and LMU, the folks who were not under the confidentiality agreement of the district, I had to give it up; resources are limited.
If you want to read stories like that, if you want real coverage of real news in Culver City, it will happen when you invest in it.
Gloria Steinem has written about starting every issue of Ms. Magazine – not with an editorial meeting or a list of stories – but begging for advertisers. Not requesting or inquiring, but begging. With feminism as the cornerstone of real democracy (what does equality mean, after all?) it’s still ridiculously difficult to just do business.
I’m honored to call myself a journalist when people in other countries take huge risks to get these stories out. Writers are murdered, jailed, banned and banished for reporting the facts, for telling the truth.
The free press is never the enemy of the people. It is a reflection of the people, and if we don’t like it, then we need to change who we are, not pick a filter or lose the light. I am not your enemy. If we don’t value truth, we won’t have any.