The Big Question

In an interview David Simon, with the writer behind The Wire (which I’ve never seen, but may have to catch up on via DVD, along with Buffy), the interviewer asks, “How do you distinguish between the good and the mediocre?” As Pippa and her god-sisters Monica and Emily used to say, “Bing bing bing bing bing!”

Simon answers the question relative to a newspaper’s journalistic mission (the topic about which he and the interviewer were talking).

You see these sort of ‘we gotcha’ stories, bite sized morsels of outrage, half-assed scandals. No one is tackling big problems. That kind of ambition is gone. When I went into journalism school, which is over 20 years ago now, high end journalism seemed like it was growing by leaps and bounds in its ability to assess the most delicate and ornate contradictions in society. . . .
What happened to the people who are supposed to be sounding the alarm? While the unions die, while the jobs disappear, while the political infrastructure dispatches one reformer after another, while the police department and the school system and every other agency create systems to deny the obvious – that they’re not doing their jobs anymore – while all this is happening, what was the external monitor doing and paying attention to?

It’s good to see Simon calling attention to the corrosive effects of profitable cultural mediocrity; now I’ll spend a few minutes thinking over how this plays out in church and academy. [Link from the estimable Doc Searls.]

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