Critics lamenting the vast changes in American news media continue to mutter throughout the land, and my voice has been among them for some time. The main concern is the disappearance of investigative reporters as newspapers continue to decline and die.
We oldsters reason that without ethical media watchdogs to create awareness of government, corporate, or ideological excesses democracy cannot flourish, or perhaps even exist. But recent events bring hope. Perhaps the old dogs simply are being replaced by a whole new breed that may prove capable of doing a better job of guarding the public interest.
Recent events in
show that internet media can expose unsavory political actions and force change.
And they can do it with remarkable speed and effectiveness.
On March 26, Governor Mike Pence expressed pleasure as he signed into law a "religious freedom" bill that supposedly had the benign purpose of defining rights generally protected by the U.S. Constitution. The measure had overwhelming support in the legislature. Laws in one-party states, such as
Indiana, enacted by wide margins and
enthusiastically supported by the governor usually are impossible to overturn
or modify without major electoral upheaval or campaigns that can take years to
|Justice was served remarkably quickly.|
law bit the dust in a matter of weeks. The opposition said the law clearly would
allow discrimination against a minority, in this case LGBT people, and that was
intolerable. A huge storm of protest erupted within days. Statements by
individuals on blogs and in social media led the way. Facebook and Yelp
participants played major roles in the outcry. Businesses and organizations
took action to penalize Indiana
economically by canceling meetings, postponing investments, or threatening to
pull operations out of the state.
Gov. Pence quickly went on television to explain that the law really did not promote discrimination. He failed miserably to make the case. As criticism and punitive actions mounted, he surrendered and backed a change in the law to make it clear it will not permit discrimination because of sexual orientation.
The fallout from the protests was dramatic. Pence's approval rating within
plummeted. He went almost instantly from consideration as a presidential
candidate to a man fighting for his political life.
I doubt any such change would have happened in the past when newspapers, radio stations, two press associations, and three television networks constituted our media.The
law signing might have rated a couple of paragraphs in the Indianapolis Star. The Associated Press might have condensed that
to a few sentences if its editors decided to circulate the news at all. Chances
of the item drawing any national media attention would have been extremely low.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which keeps an eagle eye out for injustices, perhaps would have launched a protest. And probably few people would have paid any attention to it. It is doubtful the law would have become any sort of factor in
or national politics.
Our traditional media developed over many years. Internet media still are the new kids on the block. The newcomers just proved they can work magic in righting a wrong that the institutions being replaced could not match.
Many questions of responsibility and ethics surround the internet as a news purveyor. But there always were similar issues with traditional media. Perhaps we critics of media change should relax a bit and just watch the new kids grow up and see if they mature into solid citizens.