On The Road Again (How The Press Led Us Astray)

Why were we so surprised by Barack Obama's clear ring of a victory on Tuesday? The short answer is that the media had been leading us down the path marked Hillary Momentum--the path on which she could possibly snatch victory, however it was achieved, out of the jaws of defeat--while Obama was losing his. Obviously, this was wrong and had been for some time.

Obama's quiet nonstop headway was being covered up by the effective role Hillary's handlers played in controlling the media, a media that was only too happy to tell us and show us the scenario they'd been fed. Not that there aren't courageous stand-up journalists outside the follow-the-crowd flock, but, generally, the media discharged its duty with bad or biased reporting, manufactured issues, inaccurate context, and poor judgment or perception--just like in the run-up to the Iraq War and after.

In the end, it made no difference. Neither the Clinton campaign nor the traditional media got the new web-oriented grassroots playing field that Obama and his people know so well. The charismatic senator from Illinois is blowing many of the old political rules to smithereens, and this landscape is fresh and exciting to much of the electorate. In the end (which is near), the Clintons' politics come off as So Last Century.

To regenerate our democracy and lead this new global world, our nation has some maturing to do. Spitting threats to "obliterate" other countries doesn't help us at home or around the globe. In the last seven years, our country has fallen from grace, and it's time to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and start all over again. To regain our composure.

But as everyone knows--or should know by now--traditional media either no longer recognizes the difference between spin and news, or it's willing to report spin as news because ratings is the only thing that matters in the narrow, bottom-line media world.

But the real bottom line is this: Part of rebuilding American Democracy will be reviving journalistic values that enhance it. Not pandering to government or advertisers or whoever else wants to control the message. There needs to be a commitment from the top of every news organization or supplier that creates an environment for individual journalists to practice his or her vocation with integrity, honor, and prestige. There needs to be a change in the top of our society, which demands that Americans are not continually misinformed and/or lied to. That remembers that the government is made by and for the people--instead of being so blatantly belittled and used.

Call me a Pollyanna, if you want. But it's time to get back on a path we can believe in.

Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. You can see more of her work at www.betharnold.com.