PARIS – A safety tip: Avoid catchall slurs about journalists near a reporter holding a sharp object. We’re a little touchy, having lost 1,000 colleagues in 15 years. Many of them, like ten just killed in Afghanistan, were dedicated to a calling that barely kept their kids in shoes.
Lots of “journalists” besmirch the name, but others don’t. As Earth faces endgame, despots muscle aside democrats, and amassed wealth is bent on keeping the meek from inheriting much of anything, this is no time for ignorance.
Webster calls news “a report of recent events.” That takes in, say, the doings of Kanye West, which interest a lot of people. But our children’s survival depends on a sharper definition: news is about events, recent but also in the past, around which the world turns.
This Mort Report, half Zapata and half Quixote, attempts to shovel aside bullshit down to what matters. Neither a blog nor a newsletter, it is fresh reporting with analysis based on trusted sources. It aims to fit fragments of “breaking news” together into wider framework.
For five decades I’ve watched global coverage evolve from small bands of correspondents spending half the night pecking out dispatches on antediluvian telexes to today’s free-for-all multimedia mob scenes around dramatic stories. In technical terms, jug fucks.
The good old days weren’t all that great. But circumstances forced us to get our facts straight. Newspapers and agencies competed hard to be credible. Those who slanted news, or did a dumbass job, heard about it fast. Egregious offenders were ignominiously fired.
Skilled reporters, now better than ever, reach places in a hurry with tools we old hands never imagined. Others, however, use new technology to get things wrong at the speed of light. The problem is not easily debunked fake news but rather badly covered real news.
After starting as a clueless kid in the Congo with Associated Press, I spent 39 years all over the map for AP, with two years’ time out to edit the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Since 2004, free of bosses, I’ve focused on linking global issues into a broad perspective.
As I see it, fixing a broken world would be simple enough. Human nature, alas, makes that impossible. But with enough people who care, and who understand the challenges, we might at least start to veer in more hopeful directions.
If only a few of the world’s richest people decided to squeak by on a few million dollars a year –still keeping billions on hand as spare change – every family on the planet would have dinner each night, a roof, and a shot at educating healthy kids.
Charity aside, that would do far more than anything to dampen terrorism and stem human tides that besiege wealthy countries’ borders. And it would create new markets for stuff those rich people produce or invest in.
If developed nations kept their promise to give 1 percent of GDP to needy ones, without tying aid to U.N. votes or military alliances, poor societies could build infrastructure to thrive on their own and confront the climate chaos that is making Earth uninhabitable.
Corrupt leaders, along with local mafias, steal far too much aid and investment. That is because donor governments and big business condone it. Investigative reporters document this, international agencies blow whistles, and yet it continues.
Country music lyrics notwithstanding, America hasn’t had to fight for its freedom since 1945. We can best serve veterans, far more cheaply, by not sending troops to be maimed in senseless unwinnable wars.
We need police actions, not invasions. After Osama bin Laden struck America, U.S. forces cornered him at Tora Bora. Then George W. Bush diverted to Iraq. That caused millions of deaths, inflamed terrorism, and squandered perhaps $6 trillion, a third of the national debt.
Today, America allows an unhinged ignoramus whose worldview stops at his bathroom mirror to toss matches on dry brush on four continents. He cons struggling families into enriching a ruling class. We are detested and ridiculed, if not hated, just about everywhere.
Most Americans would do the right thing if they knew what that was. But those now in control flout the most basic principles they are sworn to protect for the benefit of a small ruling class. They justify this with blatant lies. Too many voters let them get away with it.
Beyond Trump’s demagogy, there is so much else to worry about in our overheated world – and still so much else to celebrate.
The Mort Report began as periodic blasts on my private list and Facebook. Now, no longer opinion, it is analysis based on observed fact. Its long-term goal is to train young reporters to blend new skills with old values – and to stay safer in a harrowing new world.
My old-hand editors and I happily work for free. We’ve put aside fuck-you funds over the years to ensure our editorial independence. Kind contributions help pay for plane fares, libel lawyers, production costs, and such. Our young colleagues need modest emolument.
Chip in, please, if you can via the Get Involved tab on our site, www.mortreport.org. If you’d like to arrange a tax-deductible contribution, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spread the word to build a community with a voice that carries beyond the choir loft.
Consider the stakes. May 3 is UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, and the irony is bitter.
Decades ago, I joined U.S. newspaper editors – along with others around the world -- in a fight within UNESCO to block an attempt by the Soviet Union and authoritarian regimes to muzzle foreign correspondents along with their own press. We won.
Today, Donald Trump is taking the United States out of the UNESCO. His attempt to discredit and control honest reporting echo the collapsed Evil Empire. Major global players – Turkey, Egypt, and others -- take his cue to silence journalists, some permanently.
In Washington, a U.S. citizen, along with the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Pakistan, is suing the Trump administration for, they contend, targeting them for death by drone. The defense argues that America’s national security is not the courts’ business.
Bilal Abdul Kareem is a Muslim convert from New York. His freelance interviews with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria help us understand what we’re up against. He is no model of objectivity, but neither is Sean Hannity. We have that First Amendment.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer asked the Justice Department lawyer: “Are you saying a U.S. citizen in a war zone has no constitutional rights? If a U.S. person is intentionally struck by a drone from the U.S…does that person have no constitutional rights to due process…no notice, anything?”
That is exactly what he was saying. So far, we have federal judges who push back against overreach. But, as we are diverted by the day-to-day Trump circus, our courts, our environment, our global standing, and so much else suffer damage that may be irrevocable.
The Mort Report is a tiny voice among many attempting to define harsh new realities. Please help it get louder.