News consumers have role in journalism

On April 20, 2006, The Washington Post said in an editorial lead paragraph:

WHILE NO ONE is paying much attention, the Bush administration is promoting a reading of an old and largely moribund law that could radically diminish the openness of U.S. government while criminalizing huge swaths of academic debate and journalism. No one has announced it in so many words, but if the government succeeds, for the first time non-officials -- activists, congressional staffers, journalists -- would be deemed criminal for transmitting secret information or even for just receiving it.

Journalists receiving certain information could be convicted of a crime for simply receiving it. That is frightening.

The other worrisome aspect of the text is the phrase “while no one is paying much attention . . ..”

Journalists are nothing but messengers who transmit information about news-events and news-makers to the individual members of a democracy. The responsibilities are good journalism, on the reporters’ part, and keeping themselves informed on the individuals’ part, especially those who vote.

There is a huge price to pay if news consumers – the readers, the listeners and the viewers -- don’t live up to their end of the democracy bargain. They must (repeat must) demand and make sure they get information of the highest quality.

The media managers who set newsroom budgets will try to feed you the least expensive “news” you’ll take without complaining. One of the most important and expensive elements of good journalism is time.

Government information managers will try to feed you the least . . . let’s say “complete” . . . information you’ll take without complaining. It takes time to dig up complete news reports.

Be warned.