Dennis O’Neil: Truth, Justice, and the American Press
“I was taught to believe you could use words to change the course of rivers – that even the darkest secrets would fall under the harsh light of the sun. But facts have been replaced by opinions. Information has been replaced by entertainment. Reporters have become stenographers. I can’t be the only one who’s sick of what passes for the news today.”
The words that begin this column were spoken by Clark Kent as he quit his job at Metropolis’ greatest (and only?) newspaper, the Daily Planet.
Clark has been a journalist at the Planet for either five years, or 74 years, depending on whether you prefer comic book years or the kind of years most of us measure time by. Either way, what Clark did was a noble gesture.
This is not Mr. Kent’s first stray from the Planet city room. Some forty-one years ago he accepted a job in television and though, if memory serves, he didn’t completely sever all ties with the paper, he didn’t report for work there, either. Instead, he bopped around the city in a van seeking opportunities for on-the-spot, live coverage of news events. His secret – well, his newest secret – was that the van had an concealed escape hatch through which Clark could exit, unseen, when his alter ego – and you know who that is – was needed.
So Clark’s (temporary) change of status wasn’t dictated by ethics; he was just a working stiff doing what his boss wanted. And, not incidentally, what Superman’s biographer’s editor wanted. This was the splendid Julius Schwartz, who felt that Clark’s reporting gig was becoming a bit dated and that maybe shunting him into the electronic media would give him a dash of contemporaneity. You know, spiff him up a little.
I don’t remember what happened to Clark’s video career. Obviously, it didn’t last.
Now, he’s again cut loose from the only serious job he’s ever had, and I applaud him.
I expect that you applaud him, too, when you think about the egregious farce we’ve all just survived. It was called “an election” and it produced millions of words. Words spoken into microphones and in front of cameras and printed on paper: words used incorrectly and irresponsibly; words used to obfuscate and obscure; words that angered and irritated and infuriated; some words that distracted from the truth, some that denied the truth, some that seemed to bear no relationship to the truth.
Clark complained of “what passes for news today.” Does he mean all the print and broadcasting that details opinions and misadventures of instant celebrities – inconsequential nattering that once would barely have qualified as back fence gossip? Global warming? Palestine? Syria? The economy? Well, yeah, those get mentioned too, but maybe not a lot and besides, they’re not as interesting as Justin Bieber’s split with his girlfriend.
RECOMMENDED READING: Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie.
FRIDAY: Thomases. Martha Thomases