Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalist and tax expert David Cay Johnston recently gave a provocative interview to the Vermont independent weekly Seven Days. In it, he reveals that he once wanted to become a homicide detective for the LAPD (a dream more common among investigative journalists than you might think) and that, despite his railing against the inegalitarian tax structure, he’s actually a Republican (albeit, a pre-Reagan conservative).
But his most intriguing claim concerns the long-term consequences of journalism’s retrenchment:
The decline in print journalism is very bad in terms of protecting the public purse. Those who want to pick your pocket and enrich their friends are having a field day. . . .
I’ve long warned that the collapse of serious news could be a precursor to a revolution in this country. And in a country as complex and as contentious as ours, a revolution could make Pol Pot’s Cambodia look tame by comparison.
SD: How could there possibly be a revolution in a country as apathetic as this one? There’s not much activism despite the economic crisis.
DCJ: Revolutions do arise from economic collapse. We’ve had a decade of faux economics that has left large numbers of people with no jobs and no prospects. We’re destroying social stability, and we’ve lost sight of fundamental principles.
Johnston the conservative sees good journalism as preserving political stability. Hard-hitting investigative work provides a necessary check on entrenched power and serves ultimately to uphold, rather than disrupt, the social order.
If Johnston is right, then the Evan Thomases of the world, who see the role of media as protecting the Establishment, are ironically fomenting revolution!
Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?
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