"Because there is a war for the soul of this nation going right now, and we the media are involved -- not as some would like to think, as some kind of passive UN peacekeeping force -- but as a party that is in the acrid smoke of combat, under attack in a manner that's little different from the way that parts of Georgia were overrun by the Russian Army a few weeks ago. And frankly, American newsrooms face a situation that could be described in similar terms to that former Soviet Republic -- nearly defeated, and demoralized, with few if any allies that are willing to come to our aid. And despite the dire situation, most journalists are cruising along toward Nov. 4 as if it's business as usual, and that is what I personally find most alarming."
So what is our call to arms? Bunch encourages us to use our time-tasted battle arsenal, but also to use the weapons of modern reporting warfare between now and November 4—and beyond.
Remember, they declared war on us for the same reason that anyone declares war: Because they perceive us as weak. And why wouldn't they? Newspapers have gone from cash cows to an ink-stained version of Lehman Brothers in a couple of short years; there are fewer reporters on the campaign trail and fewer reporters at the conventions (it didn't look that way from afar, but my paper, the Daily News, has gone from four to three to two to one reporter since 1996. There are fewer reporters in Washington and, regarding a major issue in the 2008 race, fewer reporters giving a true picture of what's going on Iraq.
At the same time, consider the run-up to Iraq as the war games where the current tactics were proved so effective -- the time when we showed it was more important to let one side, the White House, set the narrative, and tried feebly to balance it with a response way down in the story, rather than trying to investigate what was the truth about Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. They know that we can be crushed with our own antiquated rules -- established in a different era, when the Internet didn't exist and when newspapers had a different, monopoly role, and when politics...well, OK, I know it wasn't beanbag, but it wasn't quite the bloodsport it is today, I believe."
1) Make fact-checking our number one priority in reporting.
2) Don't be afraid to call a spade a spade and a lie a lie.
3) Don't be compelled to cover either candidates' video press releases as if they were news. Ditto for their families—the good and the bad. If they are deemed off limits, then let it be so.
4) Make truth-telling fun and lively. Think: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
We may lose our livelihood as we know it, but they can't take away our freedom to report! Bloggers, journalists, citizen journalists, editors, freelancers and pundits—UNITE against the tyranny of campaign lies!