Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:March 29th, 2009 15:19 EST
The Feeble Press and the Bailout: A Formula for Disaster

The Feeble Press and the Bailout: A Formula for Disaster

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

As is so often the case, The New York Times has taken the pulse of the times and responded, this time with Deal Book, a comprehensive business report. But it`s late in the day. American journalism is a dime late and a dollar short when it comes to following the money trail, and now that the nation is turning itself inside out to finance an economic recovery, we need exactly what we don`t have: journalists with forensic accounting expertise to follow the money in our state capitals and cities.

Perhaps a national news organization supported by a combination of subscriptions and advertising could be designed to do this job, to focus entirely on money, how it`s raised, allocated and managed. It would mean endless hours of reading the Federal Register, state registers, public notices, fine print and budgets. It would take nerve, commitment and integrity, and at the end of the day we would be a much better republic for it.

But we have a financial press, you say. Yes, we do, and it`s beholden to special interests. It has an agenda. It`s censored by its advertisers, and if it had been much good in the first place it would have warned us long ago that an economy based on unsustainable home building and bad loans and  financed with money borrowed from China was bound to crash down on our heads. Why didn`t it warn us? Because it was deriving advertising revenue from predatory lenders, builders, realtors, appraisers and those infamous Wall Streeters who devised credit default swaps so complicated even George Soros and Warren Buffett didn`t understand them. Neither did the press.

At every level of government, especially in our hometowns and state capitals, we fail to exercise our rights to public information, to the documents that map just how our money is spent and "between the lines "to the skullduggery by which our money is wasted and we are betrayed. If we continue to discount this precious right to access it will be gradually and covertly taken away from us by politicians bribed by corporate interests, and they will claim they`re doing it for our safety. But the real enemy is within, at home, not abroad.

The public`s anger at the recklessness and greed of Wall Street wouldn`t be half so great if we were not aware that our trust is being betrayed, but awareness and anger are impotent unless we find ways to use the rights we already have to the fine print. That means a far better, more responsible and idealistic Fourth Estate than the pale ghost of itself we have today.

We need investigative accountants now, accountants who can write, who can explain where the money is going and why, because the safest bet in our country right now is that a great deal of the bailout money will be misspent and a lot of corruption will take root in every community that receives help. With money comes power and the potential for corruption, and the American press is too enfeebled to cover this story.

There`s no advertising revenue to be lavished on a press that exposes corruption. That`s how censorship in America works. So while we lament the loss of our newspapers we should engage in a national discussion of how we can finance a free and aggressive press. Such a press needs forensic accountants who know how to track money and tell us whose pockets it lands in.

 

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (www.arabesquespress.org), Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (www.arabesquespress.org).

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.