I suppose the face-palm of the week goes to ABC news this time around, which once again joins the ranks and likes of NBC and its exploding Chevy gas tanks, CBS and Dan Rather with their “fake but accurate Microsoft Word Bush memos,” and now hideous Syrian Kurd massacres — filmed at an exhibition night-shoot on a gun range in Kentucky.

Thus a once respected news organization self-joins MSNBC with Rachel Maddow’s breathless reveal of Trump’s supposed purloined tax returns and CNN’s long and accomplished list of fake news events and fictitious reports and incidents.

I didn’t see the initial ABC report. We don’t do TV, and these sorts of things have a lot to do with that, but I did catch the video clip online. Even if I hadn’t heard the full invective laced audio, the man’s unctuous demeanor would have been a dead give-away.

In another development, this one far from shocking, rumour has it the White House has announced intention to cancel its subscriptions to both the New York Times and The Washington Post. I’ll actually believe that one when I see it happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Most of the big media these days have long since abandoned journalistic ethics in favor of pursuing agendas.

I doubt anyone would listen, but I would advise caution. When you abandon ethical behavior, you don’t do that in a vacuum. It’s got both short-term and long-term consequences. The most egregious examples can be easily identified by massive downsizing and the hemorrhaging of both personnel and revenue. Understandable, though. Alienating 50% of your possible reader base is just plain bad for business.

More critically, it’s easy for journalism to find itself otherwise circumstantially muzzled. Journalists have the right to speak, but nobody else has the mandate to listen. The easiest way to get there is to fail to have and maintain self-discipline and high standards. And, as uncomfortable as the thought is, once a growing percentage of the fifth estate sold its soul, it invited equally ugly responses. When you start playing in that arena, the first amendment is no more sacrosanct than the second. One the media hates, the other they love. The trouble is, once the second one is defeated, every one of the rest of them are instantly forfeit. Top-down press control and top-down gun control come hand in hand. Ask Australia.

True character is knowing you may well want too much to put a chosen result in the bag, but also know the methodology chosen reeks of just plain wrong, so you stop, say to yourself, “No. Not this way,” and abandon the urge in favor of personal and professional integrity. This is the honorable opposite of “by any means necessary” and “the end justifies the means.” Pick your news sources by which they practice.

Running close third would have to be the resurfacing of Hillary Clinton. Inexplicably, the chief investigator of the whole sordid Jeffery Epstein case, Joseph Recarey, suddenly and inexplicable died after what was termed a “brief illness” — at the ripe old age of 50. Color me unduly skeptical, but having 46 friends and acquaintances — and enemies — who have died suddenly in accidents, short devastating illnesses, or unexplained and nearly impossible suicides strains any serious sense of credulity far beyond the breaking point.

It also directly feeds into the conspiracy theory crowd. The thought comes to mind, just because they’re nuts doesn’t mean they’re wrong. But I’ll maintain an open mind. Some experiences can warp a person, and I’ve never had to organize a Secret Service squad to help me sprint across a foreign tarmac under sniper fire.

I will say in my opinion, she’s no more suitable for further public service than John Dillinger was for the seminary. And largely for the same reasons.

That all being said, next week’s column falls on All Hallows Eve, and if the weather prognosticators are anywhere close to right, it looks like we’re in for some cold and rainy weather. Which reminds me of a story. It was cold and wet, and rainy that year, too.

So, in the best tradition of serialized publication — a teaser.

Cold and misery and foreboding often come together. It had been a dark and stormy night, squatted upon the land like a great dripping toad. Still the enduring gloom clutched at the trees. Such storm and darkness could only be dislodged by sullen drizzle and the anemic crepuscular presence of what — in a less blighted time — might have been the coming of dawn.

The old man sat in the damp and cold, looking into the darkness, alternately rubbing his painful joints and flicking bits of unknown debris from the oily scum floating in his coffee. The scratched and dented cup served the purpose, but was quick to surrender any lingering heat within.

In the clotted shadows beneath the trees no creatures stirred. Careful listening brought only the liquid splats of the accumulated dank falling upon layers of rotting leaves.

“Still a week away”, he muttered, “and the sky already weeps.”

From the pre-halloween scary-stuff desk here at The Paper Radio, see you next week.

Dan Beard is an 12-year Paris import who dabbles in Linux and photography. He has a 30-year history of writing content and columns for newspapers and magazines. His columns are published every Wednesday.

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(1) comment

Bill Strathern

Dan Beard , always a good read...

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