The media exists to hold those in powerful positions accountable. It’s tougher to do in this age, but some are still doing so.
In 1984, at the height of Ronald Reagan’s militarism, the editor of a Texas suburban newspaper — where I had worked as a reporter for two years right out of college — told me the paper could not print a feature article I wrote on a local woman who began a nuclear weapons freeze organization because it would “upset” advertisers. After all, many of those advertisers worked for the U.S. military/industrial complex.
This is a situation that sadly is more common in today’s media environment than it was in 1984. I had a choice back then: I could meekly resign myself to this ethical roadblock and go back to work, or I could quit my job in protest and find another way to get the story to the public. I was 24, probably even more liberal and idealistic than I am now, and the proverbial “angry young man” who wasn’t going to compromise my idealism and integrity or let anyone stop me from my mission to expose our society’s evil bastards. I was single and didn’t have to worry about feeding a family, as I do now. So, of course, I chose the latter option. I took the story to a competition paper — which published it — and submitted my letter of resignation to my boss. I didn’t regret it then, and I don’t regret it now. In fact, I’m prouder of my stand now.
I didn’t just quit my job in protest — I joined an intensive, Survivor-like protest march against the worldwide nuclear arms race across this country and Europe to Russia. The stand I took on my former job helped me march some 5,000 miles for the next 18 months. But not even walking all those miles lessened the anger in me or my resolve to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Once that was over, I returned to journalism in Texas, starting with weekly suburban newspapers and eventually working as a reporter for a bureau of one of the largest newspapers in the Southwest. Though I had to confront numerous other times in which stories I suggested or did were shot down for various excuses, I did not resign in protest again. I tried to work within the limited corporate framework, taking consolation in small victories, such as being able to cover certain peace demonstrations and progressive causes. I was one of the few to give a voice to local progressive community activists who were shunned by many media outlets. With one of those activists, I…