I would like to come clean first: I have never heard of Frank Rich until we started discussing some of his work a couple of weeks ago. Also, one thing I learned from Rich is that he is considered one of the most important icons of critical journalism -as a result, he will move to the front-page columnist in its Arts and Leisure section, according to the newspaper. Two of his latest articles “The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told” and “Gonzo Gone, Rather Going, Watergate Still Her.” made me think more about the type of work for a newspaper in the future and the concept of Freedom of the Press.
I would like to start with “The Greates Dirty Joke….” I agree with one of his points about freedom of speech, and how we are longing to experience it, even in a secret bar with a funny-voiced comic with psychedelic clothing imitating a national celebrity. However, to what extent can we use that freedom of speech or press without affecting others? I have heard many dirty jokes, but probably the meanest of all was from David Letterman five years ago:
“Miss Universe rules have changed. Now, beauty pageant contestants have to show some of their skills. For example, Miss China had to show how to dismantle an American airplane in a matter of minutes. As for Miss Colombia, she has to swallow 50 bags of cocaine in one minute…”
Yes, I definitively believe in Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech, but can we handle all its power? Don’t you think too much power could turn into greed? I dare to compare this situation with free will. If we were to have absolute free will, would be able to have total control of our lives without affecting other people? If somebody can answer these questions for me, I would greatly appreciate it.
Now, I’m not trying to say that I’m against Freedom of Press, but I think we must find an equillibrium and try not to be too leftist nor right-ist. I think it is too ridiculous to make a silly joke about Jude Law and be censored, as standup comic Bob Saget pointed out. We, as journalists, must seek truth for the greatest good, so that citizens benefit from it. Unfortunately, in some countries, journalists are silenced by putting them in jail or just commiting murder.
In the “Gonzo Gone, Rather Going…..” Rich criticizes Peter Jenning’s “ufology” and the lack of real news in some of the America’s most important newscasts, such as Brian Williams’s NBC News. Rich emphasizes that newscasts are more worried about ratings than just giving mere information. Rich also criticized the fact that some journalists have backed politicians such as Howard Dean, South Dakota Senator John Thune and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in order to praise their job.
One of the lines that struck me the most was from Hunter S. Thompson’s article from The Rolling Stones in 1972, “ The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists.”
It is really up to us if we want to be part of a group of publicists who extol a politician or a group of elitists and earn a lot of money, write sensationalist news, or finally getting attached to journalistic principles and reject any type of dubious proposals or news that would compromise our ethics.