Ghosts of Journalism Past
November 17, 2007, 01:54 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF
During the final months of my nearly 30 years in Chicago journalism, I had the misfortune of working for an editor who spent more time sticking her nose into the personal lives of staff members than she did the quality of a now defunct biweekly newspaper that covered news of interest to state and local government officials.

Wandering through our little newsroom muttering her signature complaint, "I don't get it," she exemplified a breed of journalists whose editorial talents might - and I emphasize the word might - allow them to handle a paper route.

Hurrah! I said to myself as I left that office for the last time. My suffering through long days of mismanagement and associating with shallow-minded "news gathers" mercifully had come to an end. No more tolerating reporters who got their jobs because Daddy was a powerful Chicago businessman connected to the publisher and who thought that "sink" was the proper short form of the word "synchronization." No more discovering just minutes before "closing" Page 1 at the end of our production cycle that our political reporter (who has an advanced degree in U.S.history) had begun her story about Texas politics this way: "In Texas politics there is an old saying: As Texas goes, so goes the nation." I was done with all that.

But, as someone has said, nothing lasts forever.

Nine years later, after joining the immigration restriction movement these incompetent editors and reporters, albeit with different names and faces, reappeared to remind me that accurate, fair and balanced journalism, like Jacob Marley, was as dead as a door nail.

My first real fright was the Chicago Tribune's Oscar Avila; last summer I added to my list of tormentors Esther Cepeda at the Chicago Sun-Times. In between are those whose names are to numerous to mention but who are equally guilty of crimes against an American public deliberately kept in the dark about a public policy issue finally getting the scrutiny it deserves.

The most recent of these "apparitions" reaffirming that today's "newsroom scribblers" have a problem dealing with the immigration issue is Andy Granias, editorial page editor of The Badger Herald in Madison, Wis., the nation's largest campus newspaper and one it says is committed to "objectivity." (You'll be hard-pressed to find any of it in the paper's coverage last month of a "rally for immigrant rights.")

To my horror, Granias suggested that I didn't get it when I submitted a letter to his paper criticizing a student's op-ed for what is a classic example of the pseudo-environmentalism that permeates the U.S. today, "Not easy being green with lazy students," by Henry Weiner, Nov. 7.

In this piece, Weiner berated his fellow University of Wisconsin students for their cavalier attitude toward the environment, challenging them to knock off their littering of the city's streets with their empty beer bottles and fast food wrappings, leaving lights burning all night, ignoring running toilets, etc.,etc. OK, Weiner cares enough to remind students that they all can play a role in making their immediate environment a better place for everyone. I'll give him that. But like so many of these young and impressionable kids, Weiner's environmental views have been distorted by an education system that prefers not to deal with the truth.

I mean, for heaven's sake, Weiner is living in Gaylord Nelson country and the best he can come up with as a water conservation measure is "jiggling the handle" on a running toilet?

So, in hopes of stimulating Weiner and others to think outside their campus box, I wrote the following letter to the Herald:

Proper disposal of trash, conserving water, per capita consumption, thermostats set to high and lights left on 24/7 barely begin to deal with the overall problem of how all are directly linked to our exploding population. Unrestrained population growth was the major concern that drove the environmental movement in the 1960s, long before Mr. Weiner and today's "lazy students" were born. Too many people are the greatest threat to the environment, warned those pioneers of 40 years ago. But 37 Earth Days later, however, the gains we made to protect our natural beauty and resources are slowly disappearing thanks to an immigration policy that is an unmandated federal policy for forced population growth. Each year this country is being swamped with the arrival of 2 million foreigners, nearly half of them illegal. This is more than four times the annual average of about 250,000 immigrants during the first 200 years of this nation's history.

Today, immigrants and the birth of their children here account for nearly 90 percent of our population growth. If we continue to grow at this rate, according to the Census Bureau, there will be 420 million people living here in 2050, just 43 years from now. Are you concerned about today's urban sprawl, overcrowded schools and stressed out hospital emergency rooms, traffic congestion, rising healthcare costs and crime? Are you worried about what this country will look like in 2050 in terms of providing for its people? What kind of standard of living do you imagine for yourselves and your descendents? Feel free to write me off as a racist, xenophobe, nativist or whatever label used these days in an attempt to silence opponents of mass immigration. But be very careful of how you label the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2001: "But in this country, it's phony to say 'I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration.' It's just a fact that we can't take all the people who want to come here. And you don't have to be a racist to realize that. However, the subject has been driven out of public discussion because everybody is afraid of being called racist if they say they want any limits on immigration." Those interested in learning about what happened to the 1960s environmental movement should read the Center for Immigration Studies' "Forsaking Fundamentals": The Environmental Establishment Abandons U.S. Population Stabilization. (http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/forsaking/toc.html).

Then go to www.numbersusa.com and click on "Immigration Report Cards" to view the voting record of our "environmentalist" U.S. senator, Russ Feingold, who calls Gaylord Nelson a "personal hero." The only conclusion you can arrive at it is that when it comes to protecting the environment, the "progressive" Mr. Feingold isn't putting the thousands he receives in corporate campaign contributions where his mouth is.

A week went by, and my letter didn't appear in print. I dropped a note to Jason Smathers, who oversees the Herald's editorial page content, and asked if it would run soon.

I am afraid we do not have room to run this piece, replied Smathers.

I fired back, noting that my letter was within the Herald's word limit and that the health of the environment certainly is important enough to discuss in greater detail than what Weiner had to offer.

Smathers booted my query to Granias (e-mail), who explained the situation this way:

Mr. Gorak:

Indeed environmental issues are important, but this is a piece about immigration. On top of that, you work for an organization that deals directly with immigration and the connection you made to environmental issues is far too roundabout and disconnected to publish. Of course, it is conceivable that the connection could be made, but in your editorial, it was an ineffective attempt. This is certainly unfortunate and we simply have more pertinent material that needs to take up our limited space.

Andy

Memo to Granias: (a) I'm disconnected? and (b) what, in your view, is more pertinent than raising concern about the increasingly tenuous relationship between our shrinking natural resources and a population that grows by one person every 11 seconds?