Saturday, May 26, 2012

Investigative Journalism Demonstrates Its Importance Just As It May be Fading

There are many signs that investigative journalism -- the kind that reveals the ways that the truth is being manipulated,  uncovering graft in government and cheating in business -- is in decline in this country.  So it is sad when a venerable newspaper shows signs of nearing-collapse.  And the sadness is all the more pungent when such signs appear where the need for that kind of reporting seems especially severe -- as in Louisiana.  Charles M Blow in today's New York Times gives us a sense of how much has been hidden in that state by pointing out what the New Orleans Times-Picayune has revealed about the Louisiana prison system and how it works.  By all means read his article on how legal regulations can be manipulated in self-serving ways that abuse other human beings, especially the weak and vulnerable.  

 Here is the first sentence in Blow's article:

Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”
The statistics tell a tragic story about Louisiana, which has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison in this country, and about the United States, which has the highest percentage of prison inmates in the world.  Here are Blow's statistics:  Out of 100,000 residents Louisiana has 1,619 incarcerated; the United States has 730; Russia has 525; Rwanda has 450; Iran has 333; China has 122; Afghanistan has 62.

Shame on Louisiana. Shame on the U.S.

And let us pause to regret that, if the Times-Picayune instance indicates a trend (for they are scaling back to three days a week), this kind of reporting may be lost.  If truly there is a decline in such reporting, it will be a loss for democracy, which cannot survive if the light of investigative reporting cannot be shed on unseemly behavior, and it will be a loss for us as individuals who want to have access to the truth -- at least the most reliable information -- of what is happening in the world.  Justice Louis D. Brandeis: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Already we have the sense that we live in fields of lies, crafted stories that masque the truth.  What else are we being led to believe that veil the underside of the human condition?

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