Investigative Reporters, Where Art Thou?

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I
teach in a public high school in Miami with a student population
of close to 4,000 students. Our school district is the fourth largest
in the nation, following New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles
school districts. The workings of the layers of administration in
a school system this large have fallen to charges of corruption
from time to time. It seems that the large bureaucracies are susceptible
to sticky fingers that occasionally get caught in the proverbial
cookie jar. A few years ago, a local news team of investigators
broke open a case of corruption involving some coaches at my school
who were charged with grand theft. The news report claimed the coaches,
along with some administrative assistance, had cooked up a scheme
to supplement their income by teaching extra classes after school.
The only hitch was the students never attended the classes. To this
day, I can talk to people who deny the real truth ever came of the
claims but that is not my point. The TV investigative news team
that broke the story turned the event into a media circus. Many
believe the news media manipulated the law enforcement into allowing
news cameras on the scene the moment the teachers were arrested,
handcuffed, and removed from the school. We do know that all of
the news media was tipped off because the day of the arrests, we
had news helicopters circling the school campus overhead and news
trucks from every news outlet in town circling on the ground. At
a glance, one would think a hundred hungry alligators had made an
attack on our students (or something equally newsworthy). For weeks
following the splash of this story, our school was in every newscast
on every TV station and in every edition of the newspaper. This
tremendous attention was directed toward a school that heretofore
was invisible to the press and had to beg reporters to cover news
of students' accomplishments. All of this commotion was over a few
coaches ripping off a few thousand bucks from a public school. I
agree it was not right to defraud the school, assuming it really
did happen, but the news reporting was beyond overkill.

It
seems that the news services love to thrive on hot topics. This
became apparent to me with the Karen Quinlan case. For you young
folk who missed this, or for you old folk who forgot, this was a
case where a girl was declared irreversibly brain dead and the ethical
question of the year was whether to remove life support from her
so she could be allowed to pass on. This was in the mid-seventies
and America was still dragging her heels in the Vietnam War. We
were essentially numb to the American death counts our national
news anchors were reporting. I was livid at the time because I still
had buddies in the war who were surrounded with death and the news
could only report on the potential death of this one person. I understand
the ramification of deciding to pull the plug on a brain-dead person
and I sincerely appreciate the attending ethical issues involved,
however, we were hammered with this one case until it became intolerable
to watch the evening news. It was obvious that the news media was
controlling what America was talking about over coffee breaks and
at the drinking fountains.

Other
cases have taken all of the limelight from the news cameras and
have dominated what we see on newscasts or read in newspapers. I
can see that a formula has to be followed and some of this is unavoidable.
It is a matter of time and space. The news hour or news half hour
has a precise number of minutes to fill. It has to be filled every
day. You probably have not seen a newscast stop ten minutes short
of the hour or half hour to say that they ran out of news. By the
same token, the newspaper always has news from edge to edge. I have
not seen a paper yet with a blank white spot caused by a lack of
news.

Some
other instances of overkill in news reporting that I can recall
include the OJ Simpson murder case where they actually preempted
soap operas to show America what Juice justice looks like in a real
courtroom. We did add the useful word "sidebar" to our
daily lexicon, thanks to this case. We were beat to near death with
the JonBenet Ramsey murder case in recent time. Some cases spill
over to the talk news shows like Larry King where he has
a regular panel of guests who hash and rehash the cases until your
eyes glaze over. This has contributed to an earlier bedtime for
me because after the zillionth rehash, I become hypnotized and do
not snap out until the alarm clock goes off the next morning. The
current cases that seem to hog up the news shows are the Scott Peterson
murder case and the perpetually nauseating Michael Jackson freak
show.

I
am not positive, but I suspect that the choice of what news story
goes in the paper or on the tube is influenced by money. I recall
that a major paper countered that during the OJ case, they sold
some astronomically large number of additional copies on days they
led with his story on the front page, above the fold. If money is
what determines what we see and hear in the news, that would explain
why only the high society murders get reported and no mention is
made of the murders of the homeless and the poor. Although, they
may be immune to murder and I am just unaware of this. The money
factor is what I suspect keeps some news providers from doing their
job. We have a balance of power in the government with the three
branches, legislative, judicial, and executive, keeping checks and
balances on each other. But it is the responsibility of our free
public to inform and to report. Without this ingredient, many have
no way of knowing what is truly happening in our society. Having
said that, I admit that it is not a perfect system and I can recall
seeing news reports that were far from true. Imperfections notwithstanding,
I still prefer our system to any other I have seen.

So
I have come to the investigative reporters with a question: What
are you waiting for? You are sitting on the biggest news story of
two centuries and nobody is saying boo. Are you afraid? Are you
just too lazy to report it? Do your editors restrict you? Have your
employers been bought out and are they preventing you from bringing
this story out? Are your organization's owners too afraid of their
bottom line to take the risk of upsetting their fiscal applecart?
What is the problem? The story I am referring to, of course, is
the one about our president and his whole cabal of no-good-nicks
who put this country into a war for the purpose of pocketing billions
of dollars for their circle of friends and for placating the Zionists
who have somehow got themselves stuck in our pocketbook and insist
that America continues its biased support of Israel. I am not referring
to a war on terrorism because it has been shown quite clearly that
Iraq had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks and in fact would be
more likely a target of Al Qaeda as a country to overthrow than
as an ally. And the masses can just cool their anti-Semitic attack
before it starts. This is a political and legal issue, not religious.

Any
person capable of hitting a few keys on their computer can do searches
of topics that bring out thousands of statements of fact that incriminate
Bush and Co. I am aware that you can find anything and everything
on the Internet. I prove that statement to my students by showing
them a website claiming that Elvis is still alive. But look at the
testimonies, the interviews where the liars are caught in their
own web of lies, the exposé's of people who worked on the
inside of our government, and the news reports that conflict with
the "company line." There is enough ammunition available
to expose this corrupt administration for the lying thieves they
are. The modern investigative reporter does not have to join the
cadre of "Dittoland" press corps. And consider that this
kind of investigation is inexpensive. Just think of the millions
Ken Starr spent on investigating the Whitewater case and Bill Clinton
whose biggest goof was to dribble on a blue dress and then get caught
lying about it. Oh, for the days of a stained blue dress. If only…

I
hate sounding overly flaky, but some of the goings on at our capital
lend well to conspiracy theories. Books are going to sell when this
mess is over and I predict their Amazon.com key search words will
be "conspiracy," "shadow government," "corruption,"
and "liars." We should not have to wait for the book or
the movie. Brokaw, Jennings, Rather, and Blitzer should be screaming
this story to the public posthaste.

Whatever
does transpire, the surface area of the newspaper will remain the
same size and the TV news program will be the same length. Meanwhile,
do not get caught running bogus classes in a public school!

June
19, 2004

Miles
Woolley [send him mail]
is a disabled Vietnam veteran living in Miami, Florida. He served
with the 9th Infantry Division in The Mekong Delta in
a Ranger unit doing reconnaissance 1968–69 where he received
a gunshot wound to the head leaving one side severely paralyzed.
He is a father of four grown children and grandfather of seven,
including a set of triplets.

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