neljapäev, märts 09, 2006

Walking the Printed Line

The guy to your left is Priit Pullerits. Pullerits is known is some circles as the "godfather of Estonian journalism." He is the "vanemtoimetaja" of Postimees, literally the "older editor." And upon meeting Priit in 2003, I have to say that he was among the most opinionated Estonians I have ever met. And that's a good thing. Or is it? It's so hard to tell whether having an opinion is ok when your job is serving the "greater good" as a "unbiased news source." I've even been a bit nervous about posting my thoughts on this blog because I still hope to write some news when I return to live in Estonia. I am afraid my opinions will count against me. Or will they?

Today, in the Baltic Times, the editor discusses the hand wringing going on over the big question. Will the aged Arnold Rüütel run for another five years? He has hinted no, or has he? Who knows? But the editor makes it obvious that he is for having direct elections of presidents, rather than this political king making that goes on in the Riigikogu every five years.

But are politicians capable of agreeing on one candidate? Last time around they couldn’t. This year it appears the right-wing forces, having mulled over the mistakes of 2001, are determined to set aside differences and come up with one individual. The People’s Union, the center-left party Ruutel once belonged to, has already voiced support for a second term, while the Center Party is likely to support him as well since the other political groups will not bother entertaining the concept of a Center Party president (which could only be Edgar Savisaar). That leaves the Reformists, Res Publica, Pro Patria Union, the Social Democrats and several other MPs to give Estonia a young president. Which is to say there’s another reason why presidents should be elected directly by the people.

The editor at BT is responsible, but even he has an opinion. That's what editorials are for. And I do too. I mean I think I'd be unbiased enough to cover politics. I am not sure whether it will be the Reform Party or the Social Dems that makes sure there is a new toilet in every home in Estonia (my measure of economic success). But I still mince my words because, deep down, as a journalist, I am afraid to tell people what I really think. I have developed the tell tale signs of professional journalism - the ability to listen to people without actually caring what they say, the ability to write polite letters to critics while at the same time telling them to go fuck themselves, and, of course, the ability to find redeemable traits in the most deplorable human beings, just to "balance" the record.

And because journalism pays the rent and fills my gut, I don't want to rock the boat. I'll never, for example, be fit for public office with my forays into pre-marital sex, soft drugs, and leftist student organizations (well, maybe I could get elected in France, like communist youth turned snail-sucking conservative, Jacques Chirac). But because of my profession I feel that I am somehow set outside the debates of the day. I have willingly chosen a path that I could follow without having any opinion. And what's the fun in that?

Some journalists agree. Lou Dobbs over at CNN clearly hates illegal immigration. He's nasty angry. I expect his head to explode at any moment. And every journalist on FOX is working for the Republican Party. They don't care. But as journalists we are told that we should be neutral - and the best journalists seem to be just that. When NBC's Dick Gregory gets in a tiff with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, it's most often because Scotty is being obtuse, not because of policy.

I saw students grapple with this in school. And I have worked with some of the most ideological characters you'll meet, many whom unabashedly supported candidate X or candidate Y in the last election. I support candidates, though not that strongly, as I have a soul and politics leaves me feeling dirty. And, for some reason, my work has numbed me to having deep, passionate feelings about important issues. Or maybe it's just me. Like I know things in Iraq aren't going well, I know my president sucks on the same level that james Buchanan or Herbert Hoover sucked. But I am still not that angry about it. I am unnervingly laconic about the whole reality of Earth traveling slowly to hell in a handbasket. Is it just me or is it my job? I walk the line.

3 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

There is an ongoing debate on Old Media versus New Media and so on. See the 'OPA' conference in London recently. And weblogs are a part of the New Media. Another example is Ohmynews in Korea. They have 40 000 contributers and around 50 editors. The people are contrubuting themes what are important in their own view. This webportal was a key tool for a extreme change in public opinion during the last presidential campaign. Old Media were mainly against the alternative candidate. They lost.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Justin...I continue to enjoy reading everything you write...
Just one motherly correction..
It is NBC's "David Gregory"
and yes he is what journalism was
I hope he inspires you...

Giustino ütles ...

Thanks Mom! Yes, he's one of the better ones.