It’s Sunshine Week in America: a seven-day focus from the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on “access to public information and what it means for you and your community.”
One doesn’t have to be a reporter (and bloggers, for example, are not reporters) to understand the importance of open government. Government in a free society is nothing less – but nothing more – than a human institution established for limited purposes and depending on the consent of the governed.
It’s true, as the Associated Press writes, that Town by Town, Local Journalism Is Dying in Plain Sight. This is as true in the Whitewater area as it is in other places. The Register is inconsequential, the Milton Courier just gave up its building and will go the way of the Register, and the Daily Union shrinks by the day.
So the local press is dying, and however tragic this demise, much of it has been self-inflicted. Too many reporters and publishers have abandoned the serious inquiry of political authority for glad-handing coverage of local politicians (a few of whom carry on as though entitled by God’s will).
Local news these recent years has not been too hard on political authority; it has been too soft. The news is not ‘fake’ merely because politicians dislike it; on the contrary, it’s more likely to be fake when politicians like it very much.
Those of us who grew up on inquisitive, diligent newspaper reporting find present-day newspapers nearly unrecognizable in comparison.
In our local environment, the best record of meetings comes not from the few remaining lapdog reporters, but from full recordings of those meetings. See The Disorder Nearby.
Along the way, on the basis of a prior authority to that of politicians and local notables, one makes one’s way as best one can.