Ted Koppel’s disturbing analysis

Tracy Van Slyke

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"It is almost easier to explain what you are not getting here," said Ted Koppel, anchor and managing editor of ABC's "Nightline," when he was asked why news organizations have given little time to the protests. "What you are not getting here is a replay of 1968 in Chicago."I sent the below response to Ted Koppel and his producers after I read his quote in the New York Times Thursday morning on why major media outlets are not covering the protestors.Mr. Koppel, Is it my understanding that because there isn't blood running in the streets, that the protests aren't worth covering? This is not just bad judgment, this is terrible journalism.I'm fed up with the mainstream media not acting like journalists, but fulfilling the role of snotty censors. These "protestors" have done a better job at home and in New York this week investigating and exposing the issues that go the heart of the American people than journalists themselves. They have talked about the economy, about jobs, about womens' rights, about labor, about the issue of war and its consequences and yes, even about the mainstream media itself. At least they are engaging discourse, whether or not everyone agrees with them. They have not repeated political rhetoric, pitted two campaigns against each other to see who draws more blood, and engaged in instant punditry as if that makes good journalism.How typical for the mainstream media to dismiss these protestors as a fringe element, not worth a look at unless there is disorder and mayhem in the streets. How typical it is to ignore tens of thousands of people who have travelled to New York with their own money, on their own time to come fight for a country that they still believe in and to represent the thousands and thousands of people who could not come themselves. How typical it is to dismiss the young people who have the passion and drive to say what they believe, to organize thousands of others in a creative and organized fashion and then turn around to bemoan the low number of young voters.I didn't go to journalism school and work as a reporter because I felt that my role was to identify only a small number of people as experts, to sit inside offices and work the internet and the telephone as my only conduits to the outside world. Where has the curiosity gone? Where has the drive to get out into the streets and find new stories, new (and not so typical) experts, with different voices, faces and backgrounds that represent a broad spectrum of people living in this country?It's no wonder the audiences for the mainstream television and newspapers have declined while the numbers for alternative and foreign news sources have dramatically increased under the past few years. Stop following the press releases, the campaigns' directives and the scandals du jour and start acting like a fourth estate.

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Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.
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