SOHO POLITICS: Freedom of the Press and Other Fantasies

There was more than one Joe Gallo in Brooklyn. There was, of course Crazy Joe Gallo, and, there was just Joe Gallo. Not the same guy. Yet, he died the same way. A bullet. In this case a bullet to the back of the head, found leaning back in his Buick where a headrest might be found in today’s cars. GM didn’t offer headrests in those days—or seat belts. Everyone drove at their own risk, until too many people went through the windshield. It was a pre-Ralph Nader world.

There was more than one Joe Gallo in Brooklyn. There was, of course Crazy Joe Gallo, and, there was just Joe Gallo. Not the same guy. Yet, he died the same way. A bullet. In this case a bullet to the back of the head, found leaning back in his Buick where a headrest might be found in today’s cars. GM didn’t offer headrests in those days—or seat belts. Everyone drove at their own risk, until too many people went through the windshield. It was a pre-Ralph Nader world.

Fins, yes. Seatbelts, no need.

Newspapers were read by everyone then. Writers like Dorothy Kilgallon and Walter Winchell wrote gossip and news. Jack Anderson covered the political beat and, along with the Washington Post, Nixon and Kleindienst, Mitchell and Dean, and Geneen and Rohayton— were publicly excoriated. A few went to jail for Watergate, including Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy of CIA-FBI fame. He did 4 years and was pardoned. People worried about appearing in the newspaper columns. Reporters exposed corruption, destroyed Presidents and smoked out criminals. THe 4th Estate was respected and sometimes feared.

Now they kill reporters. They assassinate them in Russia. They arrest and torture them in Iran. They shoot them in North Korea. And, they indict and arrest and imprison them in Europe and America.

As Don Ameche said, “Things change.” They don’t even need to shut down newspapers any more because the internet is putting them out of business.

Of course, some newspapers are falling faster than others. Take the New York Times. I like the Times. It provides some in-depth coverage of stories others won’t touch and its editorials are sometimes worth reading. But, it’s not run well. How can you tell? Well, not from the usual ways. I can tell that it’s run badly because I was foolish enough to buy a print subscription. I read that the Gray Lady had to sell the Boston Globe in the Wall Street Journal. I couldn’t read it in the TImes because I still hadn’t received the newspaper yet. The Wall Street Journal arrived on the same day as the masthead date. I haven’t received LAST week’s New York TImes yet.

So, I sort of figured, no wonder they had to sell the Boston Globe. They don’t have it together.

We have a lot further down to go before the so-called “pay wall” is figured out. So that publications can manage to make news profitable again. We all want that to happen because there can be no democracy without a 4th Estate. That is a given. Corruption controlled by self-serving politicians and government unchecked by investigative reporters is a dictatorship waiting to happen.

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