NC press corps too concerned about soiling trousers

by Kirk Ross

This year there proved to be at least one great advantage to having been denied membership to the 2007 edition of the Capital Press Corps: I didn’t have to write about what a regular guy Don Beason is and how I was either shocked or knew all along that he was the one who “loaned” Jim Black half-a-mil. Unlike some of the pros up in Raleigh, I’m not used to explaining how it’s important I get cozy with lobbyists and insiders and how I’m completely immune to their charms. That could turn one all pretzely over time. I’m only kidding slightly here. The press, particularly the folks who trade on their insidership around the legislature, have some ‘splainin’ to do. After all, it was not they who tracked down the threads that led to revelations of a monumentally corrupt Speaker, but a bunch of federal prosecutors. The scandal stories, nicely packaged and written as they were, fed off of the documents from the feds and seldom ran far ahead of the investigation. Now I know that transparency is still new to much of the established media, but a little soul searching is in order. Even in the provinces, we rubes knew the Decker deal stunk and that it was likely the tip of the iceberg. Now, seven years after the fact, we’re starting to get somewhere. And as the evidence of widespread corruption, vote trading and donations tied to legislation mounts, so should the questions about where the watchdogs were while all this was going on. Maybe they weren’t given the time or resources thanks to consolidation and media’s addiction to mid-20th century profit margins. Maybe they were clueless or didn’t think it important or were worried about losing access. Give me a bunch of (insert wildly misinformed stereotyping adjective here) bloggers with nothing to gain or lose over folks in the know sitting on their hands for fear of alienating a source. I’m afraid that as in many places in this great land, those charged with occasionally mucking out the barn are either too concerned about soiling their trousers or have somehow become mesmerized into believing they too are a fine steed in the stable. Loyalty to those in power is not in the job description – or shouldn’t be. The idea is to help the rest of us get at the truth not to recreate the Acta Diurna. The first newspaper in this land, Publick Occurrences, Both FOREIGN AND DOMESTICK, was shut down after its first issue because it mentioned the doings of government without permission. Young Ben Franklin became publisher of the New England Courant after his older brother went underground for publishing without submitting his copy to the censors. The right to publish without interference from the government was a hard earned one and should not be easily surrendered or taken or granted. When I first started out in this business, a newsman of the old school used to remind me of a line from a poem by a famous colonialist: “If you can walk with kings and yet not lose the common touch….” That goes double for y’all having lunch with those kings.