An author I am reading right now summed up the attitude of American journalists, explaining why they are not naturally curious, do not ask the right questions, and trust authority figures to give them good information. He called the attitude “Things Are Basically All Right.”

I have seen this, and it is an apt description. Professional journalists are trained to pooh-pooh anything that messes with vanilla:

We have a good system in place with competent people in charge. TABAR.

Things are not all right, in fact, things got out of hand decades, even centuries ago, right under the noses of our professional journalists. They are oblivious, even smug in the self-assurance that they have got this thing down and have better insight than the rest of us.

But I think on a deeper level they are not the product of professional training in information gathering and analysis. They are the product of selection and conditioning.

They self-select due to dullness. Imagine wanting to be in an profession that requires submission to people with no sparkle (editors) who themselves must submit to authoritarians who discourage creativity and protect power (publishers). To want to be in that field, to aspire to such low heights, requires a narrow world view.

But suppose that a few curious souls do enter the profession. They quickly learn that burrowing and asking the wrong questions, stroking powerful cats the wrong direction, gets them nothing but trouble. They learn to He Said She Said those stories and get a quote from both* sides and move on.

That kind of lackluster performance and those millions of forgettable stories are the seeds of advancement. Eventually, dulled down and cleansed of curiosity, a reporter might become an editor! Only the dull need apply.

And remember the editor’s creed: Things Are Basically All Right.
*In the real world, not only are there more options that “both” sides, but more importantly, there are also the “neither side” possibility along with “they lie, they lie, they lie” and “truth is there but hidden” and “ask a different question” possibilities, all off limits. My Dad had a profound observation on the nature of women. “Complicated” was how he summed it up. So is the whole world.

4 thoughts on “TABAR

  1. How much more fun and rewarding to make, and break, perceptions about reality than to investigate and report the evidence known to you.

    These parasitic hacks want power too, even if it requires a bit of nastiness and lying, no matter who gets hurt, or how damaging it is to already weakened institutions. Brick by brick, no fingerprints.


  2. I’ve also noticed the smugness. “The Wire” had a good representation of the journalism environment in one of the later seasons.

    Although The Wire has plenty of red flags of it’s own.


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