The powers that be . . . afraid


They came, they spoke, they shrugged at a Stanford symposium titled, “Pressing Times: Can Newspapers Survive in the New World of Journalism?”


Alas, I couldn’t be there Monday night to hear Google marketing maven Marissa Mayer, NYT editor Bill Keller, former-LA Times heir Harry Chandler, and McClatchy Co. CEO Gary Pruitt address this topic of great personal interest, given that my daily newspaper reporting provides the primary support for my wife, my three children, my sense of self-worth — and this blog.


Fortunately, Stanford Daily reporter Emma Trotter covered the event in which Mayer sugested citizen journalists were the future, Keller stressed how papers are trying to change their distribution and keep their standards and Chandler suggested outsourcing reporting to India (as may be occurring anecdotally). Pruitt, whose newspaper chain just bought a larger stake in what other see as a shrinking industry, recited the canon of journalism:


“It is our duty to speak the truth about power,” he said, “hold government accountable, build community cohesion and give voice to the voiceless.”

Powerful words. These are the ideals of journalism. But does the practice match the boast?

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The title of this posting is a reference to the, “The Powers that Be,” in which author David Halberstam chronicles the rise to power of the media. Halberstam was recently killed in an auto accident in Palo Alto. The image comes from a Christian site that included the following sentiment that seems apropos:


“There are two kinds of fear: The Bible talks a lot about fear of God — fear in the face of something awesome. That kind of fear is the type of fear that makes someone want to change. But a fear of other people makes you want to stay the same, to protect what you have. It’s a stagnant fear; and it’s paralyzing.”