Our government is laid out in such a way that one part watches over the other part.  Each branch has its jobs that are scrutinized in some way by one or both of the other two.  A presidential veto can be overturned.  A bill that has been passed by congress can be vetoed.  Laws can be declared unconstitutional by the supreme court.  It is like ‘rock/paper/scissors’ for real life.  Something can counteract something else in one way or another.  It doesn’t always work so smoothly; certain steps might get bastardized once in a while; but basically, it’s a good way to run a railroad – well, government really.  But that’s not what this post is about.

Outside of the laws regulating slander and libel, I am not aware of much that acts as those checks and balances.  Where are the controls on today’s media?  How are they regulated?  How do they get out of hand, and how to they get back IN hand?

Many of us over the age of 50 recall the likes of news reporters like Walter Cronkite.  His demeanor and attitude glowed in their objectivity as much as he could muster.  You could never tell – or so it seemed – what he thought about particular issues.  Oh, I’m sure her had his moments, but all in all, he had a reporting standard that seems to be missing today.

And then came the first waves of reportage that were fueled by nothing but rumors or even rumors of rumors.  The ultimate example I can give you came to us in 1986, when   Geraldo Rivera was given an entire evening to broadcast a story about the opening of a vault purportedly owned by Al Capone.  For hours, we sat and watched as locksmiths worked on the safe.  What was in it?  Could there be millions of dollars?  A hoard of weapons?  We sat and watched this non story unfold, only to see the vault opened, revealing nothing but old musty air.

Since then, we’ve seen journalism unravel in so many ways.  Take a look for yourself.  Say the word ‘Obama’ on Fox news and watch the eyes roll.  Behold when Rachel Maddow on MSNBC twists a sincere conservative comment into a vile pile of insane verbiage.  Check out any number of internet sites that fan the flames of one issue or another – and I don’t care if its gun control, abortion, global warming, animal rights – they all are so overly focused on one issue that they have no grasp – nor any respect – for any differing opinion.  They resort to name calling, ridicule, comparing those who oppose them to some offensive past historical character – all of which is unfruitful, hurtful, and tells us nothing.

Like I said, outside of laws regarding libel and slander, there seems to be little to hold our media to some standard of quality.

Doctors take a Hippocratic oath – famous for the phrase, “First, Do No Harm”.  It is not legally binding, but I would be willing to bet most doctors take it seriously.  Is there a similar oath for the media.  There may be, but the trouble is that it would apply only to the ‘professionals’ out there.  It would be impossible to apply it to the millions who have their own websites.  How do we get such an oath to apply universally?  I honestly don’t know.  I do, however, think such an oath is needed if it’s not there yet.

Then maybe there’s this possibility.  Teachers get licensed.  So do lawyers, doctors, plumbers, taxi drivers, boat captains…. maybe we need a license to give those who EARN that license some credibility.  If you have a license — and it could come from the government or from a  journalism society similar to the American Medical Association for doctors… your work is more credible than someone who does not have a license…. How about that idea?

So I leave it to you.  Listen and read what you want to read.  Check out those media that you find lacking, so that you at least know where they’re coming from.  Actively think about what is being said and done out there.  If you are part of the ‘sayers and doers’, do what you can to be clear, thoughtful and fruitful