Times are tough but every now and again we get a reminder that we've got it better than most.
A couple of things happened this week that allowed me to take stock of things a bit better.
Act One: Yesterday a small group of newsroom types met with visiting TV and radio reporters from Iraq. Although it was fascinating to hear concerns about how they are to survive doing TV or radio and the Internet (this is a global complaint of mainstream journalists), it was the moment at which they asked about the role of government in our work, and this thing called "independence" we have.
MPR News Director Bill Wareham explained that we aren't owned by the government, we don't have to answer to the government, we don't clear our material through the government, we don't have a requirement to help state government, in particular, "get its message out."
We've seen the reaction before from visiting foreign journalists. How do you explain journalistic freedom and independence to people who have no concept of it? It surely must be as difficult to comprehend as us imagining living in a world where we have no such freedom.
Act Two: TED has posted a new video featuring Emmanuel Jal. His story of being a child soldieer in Sudan is not a new story. It's just one that never seems to lose its intensity.
How's your life going?
While U.S. journalists and news entities may have more independence from the government than do Iraqi journalists, they certainly are not free of massive influence by politicians and movements. George Lakoff spoke on Midday yesterday about how the mainstream media are influenced by conservatives, even often adopting conservatives' preferred language in reporting about issues. Lakoff is far from the only one who has noticed this.
Then there's MPR, which seems to be heavily influenced by Tim Pawlenty. Here's just one of hundreds of almost-every-day examples: They reported just now, at the TOP of the newscast, that Pawlenty has an opinion about something (the CARS program). Now why in the world does MPR need to report that -- and at the top of the newscast as if it were the most important news of the day?
On the specifics of your citation, you're correct. Gov. Pawlenty expressing an opinion on something with which he has no association as governor is not news.
Interesting, too, that the Star Tribune played it as a top story on their front page on Saturday.