Saturday, May 12, 2007

Outsourcing Sources and Contracting Out Justice

The oxymoronic “journalism community” is up in cliches about an announcement from the Web site Pasadena Now that since young reporters are too demanding, too costly and too unfocused to sit through city council meetings, it will outsource coverage to a couple of reporters in India.

It had been axiomatic in the news business when I practiced the craft that the best reporting consists of – now merely a quaint custom – a reporter being where the news is! The Mumbai and Bangalore bureaus of Pasadena Now will report by telephone and e-mail, which come to think of it is how reporters at newspapers from the New York Times to the Kalamazoo Gazette do their jobs, too.

What with shrinking employment, fewer ads and a paradigm shift from print to the Internet, the newsroom norm has become reporting by telephone, watching C NN and compiling clips. Still, some brave editors demand their reporters engage in the GOYAKOD philosophy – Get Off Your Ass and Knock on Doors.

It is certainly not a positive development for journalism. But there is plenty of precedent for outsourcing news. For decades, sports sections have outsourced scholastic news to paid stringers from the schools they cover; business sections have outsourced news to the p.r. agencies of industries they cover; local pages have outsourced crime listings to the police department; real estate sections have outsourced news to local Realtors, and Judy Miller outsourced news to the Pentagon.

At least in this case, the people hired to cover the Pasadena City Council are putative journalists.

What is even more abhorrent is what is going on inside the United States government, where everything from torture to trash collection is being put in the hands of private contractors, usually those with political ties to an executive branch that says it hates big government.

So to appear to shrink the government, without actually cutting spending or waste or improving services, the Bush administration is bent on “privatizing” about half of the public’s business, mostly by no-bid contract to politically favored firms. The results can be summarized in two words: “Halliburton” and “Walter Reed.” Okay, that’s three words. Sue me, Alberto.

Speaking of the attorney general, the smirking toad apparently outsourced justice itself to an inexperienced 31-year-old McCarthyite misfeasant installed at the Department of Justice to hire and fire real lawyers based on their presumed political leanings, regardless of their actual ability and regardless of the nonpartisan nature of their work. Her credentials for the job were graduating from the barely accredited law school at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

The woman, Monica (hah hah) Goodling, was just given immunity from prosecution by Congress in order to answer questions about how Bush, Karl Rove and their stooge Alberto Gonzales prostituted the revered American justice system that they want exported around the world at the point of a bayonet.

When this is all over, it will turn out to be the worst corruption of democratic ideals than Watergate.

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