Teri Orr: Keeping the faith…
I bet you’re exhausted. I know I’m exhausted. I am exhausted by the endless news cycle of sad, frightening news.
The news about the pipe bombs being sent to high-profile liberal politicians and heads of news departments and our former president and his vice president and secretary of state and former director of national intelligence and current senators.
The news about the caravan of thousands of families headed from Honduras through Mexico to the edge of this country where we have sent hundreds of troops to stop them from entering.
The news about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which took place in Turkey at the hands of 18 men from Saudi Arabia.
It is exhausting to care so much and feel so powerless to stop the anger and hate that is not limited to the political context of this country. But in this country we are being governed/led/controlled by a despot president who fears The Truth so much he will do anything to hide and mask it to deflect our energies and natural idealism and turn us one by one against each other on the pages of newspapers and the screens of laptops and at corner groceries.
I don’t know why it comes back to me at the oddest times but I often think about what most astronauts proclaim when they view Earth from space. There are no borders. Just a planet with lots of blue water and green pieces of land floating in between.
There are no borders. We have one planet, to survive on, together.
I have been trying to understand which news sources to believe about the death of Khashoggi — a columnist for the venerable Washington Post. Once Katherine Graham’s Post and owned by — on any rotating day now — the richest man in the world — Jeff Bezos. The people I know at The Post tell me he has never once stepped into the newsroom to try and create one click journalism. He lets the paper run itself and he funds the freedom of that press.
Over at the New York Times there have been rumblings for some time about a buyer in the wings. And the hope that giant institution will be saved by another philanthropist — possibly Bill Gates. Because the old model of selling ads and selling papers hasn’t been working really since the intervention of the internet. We consume news differently and we have so many ways for advertisements to reach us.
It was The Post that Edward Snowden, former CIA operative, trusted with his carefully purloined information about our government spying on each other. And The Guardian. And then a paper on each of the continents. Snowden believed the best way for the secrets that were hurting our government to be revealed was by finding trusted press partners to vet the information and release it … as needed.
Having the president of the United States constantly call journalists the enemy of the people puts a bullseye on every working journalist. It is one thing to disagree with coverage — it is another to have an Enemy’s List that includes everyone with a laptop filing a story in any town in this country or any other.
We are not the enemy of the people — we are — we, the people.
The pipe bombs sent this week in the mail are acts of terrorism and treason and attempted assassination. And it is difficult not to connect those dots back to the fear-mongering, hate-filled, Current Occupant of the White House.
Reporters are eddying about Jamal’s last hours and his murder/dismemberment in gruesome detail. The forensic specialist flown in the same day as he arrived at the consulate to secure a marriage certificate. His Apple watch that may have recorded the details in real time. The Turkish government is now admitting there were surveillance cameras in the embassy building and they claim to have footage of the actual assassination.
Did United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s abrupt resignation have to do with her immediate knowledge of Khashoggi’s execution or of President Trump’s mocking of Dr. Christine Ford’s testimony against nominated Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh?
Her appointment to the U.N. had been viewed — from both sides of the aisle — as a hopeful move at the time.
Fake news is something any journalist works hard against. We were all taught if you think you have a story you need to find two separate sources to verify that position. Now we take a single sound bite and create a news cycle out it.
“It’s hell when the truth gets in the way of a good story,” my first editor taught me. And all good reporters know how exciting it is to think you are on the trail of something BIG. But when the truth doesn’t bear out the excitement — you return to the mundane work of trying to report on real news — however pedestrian it may feel at the time.
Wearing us down is part of the strategy and tragedy of the current administration. Feeling exhausted is what they want. Caring is exhausting. It is difficult to sustain. But freedom depends upon it. Be vigilant and brave. Everyday, including Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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