The idolatry of journalism

The seven-story Temple of the Hacks was a monument to folly from the day it opened in 2008. In nine years, it swallowed up $272 million from the nonprofit Freedom Forum, which was established by the late USA Today proprietor Al Neuharth and receives millions from outfits such as News Corp., the Ochs-Sulzberger family that owns the New York Times, ABC owner Disney, and NBC parent Comcast. Note that euphemistic name: Freedom Forum, not Journalism Forum. Such is the brand value of journalism today that it has to pretend-identify with a concept people actually like. Never mind that large media outfits such as most of those named above expend massive effort trying to reduce freedom, even freedom of expression, by beating a drum for hate-speech codes or, in the Citizens United case, taking the side of those who sought to ban films and books that might irritate powerful politicians such as Hillary Clinton.

The Newseum concept is the equivalent of me pasting my picture over Brad Pitt’s on the cover of People’s Sexiest Man Alive issue. Trappings don’t make idols. We go to the Baseball Hall of Fame, or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because we find the entertainers celebrated there to be such supreme talents that they become figures of awe, figures of myth. Knowing what Babe Ruth, or John Lennon, did, we might be inclined to gaze in wonderment upon the tools that served them, even the clothes they wore. But what did Ana Marie Cox do? I can’t think of a thing, except “appear on television,” and I’m something of an expert on her profession, having spent 25 years in it myself.