Sunday, September 03, 2006

Abandoned is the new lost

department …

Maybe the 1970s was the golden age of journalism and we have no right to expect that same level of commitment, integrity, and perceptiveness today. Maybe elevating the superstars of Vietnam-era journalists to celebrity icons is what led, ultimately, to our current nadir. Perhaps young people started going into the field to become stars instead of to uncover the truth about the way the world works. In any case, we’ve come to a fine pass, haven’t we? It’s one thing for a small-town paper or television station to pass off a news release they receive from a corporate or government source as actual news; it’s quite another, I think, for a serious newspaper like The New York Times to do so.

Today’s Times (Sunday) has a major article about screening technology at US airports (link may not work if you are not a subscriber). I’m sure the paper’s own staff are responsible for the reporting, graphics, and photography. Nonetheless, I can hear the government spinner talking in the cutline to this picture. It reads, “At the Transportation Security Laboratory outside Atlantic City, scientists and technicians build bombs with various explosives and stuff them into abandoned pieces of luggage purchased by the federal government to see if their cutting-edge equipment can detect the bombs.”

Excuse me, but abandoned!?!?! Surely they jest. Or, in this instance, . The fact that airlines lose huge numbers of bags does not mean that their rightful owners ever abandoned them. Please!

I’ve got to wonder how much other government guff the reporter swallowed. And I have to wonder whether journalism schools are even training reporters and editors to be skeptical these days.

Meanwhile, if you recognize your own luggage in the photo, at least now you know who ya’ gonna call.

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