Jun 10, 2009

If journalism loses its value, do journalists lose theirs as well?

James Rainey at the LA Times makes note of an interesting response to the news that two U.S. journalists had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for allegedly crossing the border into North Korea.

Rainey writes:
... a small but determined backlash took form, from a minority who say that reporters who go where they are not supposed to go get what they deserve. That's unsettling, but not surprising given a more insidious sentiment loose in the land: that journalists haven't earned and don't deserve any special privileges.

It's a populist nostrum that seeps into my e-mail basket and oozes from blogs and mainstream media websites with some regularity.
Although my blog is too small to be representative of a national trend, it stuck me that the only comment I received after Current TV reporter Euna Lee and Laura Ling were jailed came from someone who felt they deserved to be punished:
I believe the reporters broke the law and should pay the price. I have family members in the military and think this type of recklessness puts our military in harm’s way just so the reports (sic) can make some money.

Al Scal Guam USA
Clearly someone who's never seen a reporter's paycheck

As Rainy says, "The case of Ling and Lee provides the most recent reminder that some people passionately defend our freedoms, except when it becomes clear they won't come free." I'll let you work out the double meaning, but let's hope that the people who do sympathize with the two journalists take the time to consider why they went to China.

To that end, the Washington Post has a story today about the trafficking of women from North Korea to China that seems to be similar to what Lee and Ling were reporting on.


Edward Barrera said...

Is this really a change?
According to Reporters Without Borders, last year 62 people working in the field of journalism were killed, 673 were arrested, 929 were physically attacked or threatened and 29 were kidnapped.

How many did we read about? Where was the outrage from journalists? It's all bad, but rarely do the general public or most journalists pay attention to the price paid for we want to do or fight to protect that right.

Anonymous said...

The public increasingly views journalists as not objective, elitist, and that journalists view themselves as victims. People tend to bifurcate on issues as well as groups, so journalists are now "bad" where they once were "good".

In addition, people don't care about freedom. They care about how much stuff they have. In a culture like that, who needs journalists?