Kismet, baby. If I had called the Gods of Journalism and asked, I couldn’t have received better affirmation of the underlying point in my previous post than what The New York Times delivered on the front page of their Sunday paper yesterday. Titled “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It,” the story looks at a group of entirely ordinary, familiar people living just beyond the north end of the Twin Cities and starkly contrasts their belief in “small government”, their belief that “government spends too much”, with the amount of government money they each personally receive, every nickel of which — other than a stray tattoo — is vital to sustaining them above the permeable status of poverty.
Here again, a national journalism entity has come to town to fully report and contextualize one of the key disconnects of contemporary American culture. Nothing about the Times story required the weight of the country’s most respected news organization. Every character, fact and head-shaking irony has been there for anyone to see and report, assuming they were prepared to draw the same direct lines the Times did between what earnest, decent Minnesotans hold as articles of faith and the harsh facts they’d prefer not to be confronted with publicly.
The question of, “Why The New York Times? (Or The Wall Street Journal in the case of UnitedHealth fraudulently gaming the stock option system), or Rolling Stone laying out a discomforting pattern of bigotry-enabling by conservative religious forces aligned with Michele Bachmann, was the primary point of my previous post. I won’t belabor it again … so soon.
Other than to say … even the Times story played soft in ways regarded as “responsible” and “non-inflammatory” by professional journalists. It avoided caustic, blogger-like descriptions of its subjects, it did not pursue the sources of their belief that no one should/could pay more taxes, it did not make over-much of their ideological beliefs and practiced notable restraint in painting Chip Cravaack territory as emblematic of tens of millions of other government-dependent Americans floundering in profound, self-defeating cognitive dissonance.
Some of that was there. But the Times, in its Grey Lady wisdom, practiced moderation … while still reporting the story, drawing unequivocal attention to the gap between belief and behavior and leaving no question in the reader’s mind that this is a vital, central issue in today’s culture.
Their decision to give it marquee presentation on the front page of their biggest issue of the week tells you everything you need to know about what The Times thinks of the story’s importance.
I’ll leave it to you to contrast this latest piece of heavyweight journalism by an outside entity with the last time our three primary, local news organizations have reported the same readily accessible story.
… and yes, I’ve dropped in a new gravatar/slug. The great decline of another two years has taken a toll I couldn’t hide any longer. There is a small visual pun to this photo, taken by my wife. And there’s a couple beers at my local pub, The Pig and Fiddle, for whoever figures it out.