Welcome to 21st Century America, fellow journalist. Yes, that means you.
Technology today makes it possible for every citizen to be one. Every citizen should take advantage of that blessing before it becomes a curse of political and cultural incoherence.
No, don’t just blather about facts the declining ranks of professional journalists gather strenuously in pursuit of their blighted calling, but go out and dig up some news. Then publish it.
Study proposed government budgets and attend a city council meeting or state legislative session to ask some tough questions.
Most local and state leaders right now are stitching a shroud of deceptions and lies that will indenture our children and grandchildren even as it bankrupts this generation while cutting public services and decimating essential infrastructure.
Get the budget and compare it to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that increasingly must include the real numbers governments are allowed to keep off their books.
Check Truthinaccounting.org’s links to the annual reports and Guide to Reviewing Government Budgets. Then show up, ask questions and publish politicians’ answers in the myriad forms now enabled by the Web.
Track millions of dollars in federal taxes on recovery.org to make sure nobody along the chaotic gravy pipeline gets confused about whose pocket the money should go into.
You must probe government, church and business as check and balance because the tattered Fourth Estate cannot do it anymore. According to the 6th annual Pew Research Center State of the News Media 2009, working professional journalists have been cut by more than 20 percent in recent years.
Journalism always was the people’s profession anyway, because under the First Amendment there can be no government licensing or permission required to practice it.
The very technology contributing to traditional media’s inability to pay professional journalists provides unprecedented, powerful tools for citizens to gather and publish news.
Use ballotpedia.org to keep up with issues a majority of adults are supposed to approve, like the recent vote in Oregon to impose ruinous taxes on a state economy already beleaguered by recession.
That is a perfect example of why average citizens must become informed and involved. The $733 million in new taxes passed 688,049 to 579,538, a margin of 108,511 votes in a turnout of 62 percent of registered voters compared to almost 86 percent in the presidential election.
Oregon has almost 300,000 government employees. Public worker unions pumped $7 million in tax money into passing the taxes. Opponents had about $4.5 million.
It means fewer than 25 percent of adults consented to increase the taxes of all because so many stayed home.
Any citizens who think gathering hard news and pushing it out every way possible is somebody else’s job should think about recent revelations of self-proclaimed religious leaders aiding and abetting felonies against children and financial leaders who sucker punched and robbed us, and now use our government to extort money for their bonuses.
Obviously, traditional media didn’t exactly get the job done, though a few reported stories that too many Americans ignored.
Now is the time to join the news movement. People are joining. But not enough.
According to the Pew Foundation Biennial Survey of People and The Press, non-traditional news media “are a new feature of American journalism worth watching. For now, our sense is that they represent something complementary to the traditional news media, …. Yet something new is going on here that could grow beyond that.”
However research shows “Online news outlets … are viewed with more skepticism than their print, broadcast and cable counterparts.”
That may be why traditional media Web sites dominate online news, though their growth appears to be flattening, according to figures just released by the Newspaper Association of America.
For alternative journalists, such as nonprofits, associations and activist citizens, these numbers present an opportunity to blog, tweet, create Web sites and use social networks to publish news.
If you get some training, build credibility and score exclusive news traditional outlets cannot pursue, it provides them with an opportunity to pick up good content to serve their readers and viewers for free. That is the magic word in 21st Century journalism.
The future can be a symbiotic information relationship that empowers all citizens and builds a better America.