The New York Times has become the laughing stock of the world for employing a reporter who lied and fabricated stories. The Federal Communications Commission has come under fire for allowing mega-mergers of media, including newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters, who typically sacrifice good journalism for profits.
Amid this doom and gloom about our information sources, however, a few bright lights still gleam. One, which circulated around the Oregon Capitol recently, is a series about trends in the environmental movement which the Sacramento Bee completed two years ago. Although two years old, the series remains valid and meaningful today.
"Fat of the land," an expose on the cost of prosperity for major environmental groups, represented a breakthrough in print journalism. Nobody else has touched this subject. But it was a story that begged to be told. Bee reporter Tom Knudson revealed the discomfort that many environmentalists feel with the clout and fat living of their movement's leaders - leaders, one might argue, who have betrayed the mission of environmentalism.
A board member of the Sierra Club memorably dubbed his group "Club Sierra" for its lavish meetings and "extravagance." The story revealed "rising executive salaries and fat Wall Street portfolios" for the once-modest activists who tilted against big business in the name of nature.
The Bee's executive editor, Rick Rodriguez, had every right to be proud of this series. One token of its importance is the fact that legislators in Salem received copies to read.
Rodriguez wrote: "(Knudsen's) stories are based on exhaustive research conducted over 16 months with travel to 12 states and northern Mexico. And what he has found is that a movement established, in part, to combat the influence of the powerful has itself become a big business."
We salute the Bee for taking on a story that nobody else would touch. We also hope that Americans will remember newspapers like the Bee before deciding that all journalism in the age of scandals and mergers has gone to the dogs.