Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's journalism, people.

There are a couple of stories illustrating the fact that people don't really understand the whole point of journalism.
First, there's news from Spain that should give everyone pause who has been attacking the censorious impulses of Islam (or Islamofascism, if you wish). The Spanish government has just passed a law that provides payment for people who have kids. It's understandable: like most countries in Europe, Spain is trying to confront a falling birth rate, and they figure handing out pesos for procreation (I know it's really euros, but that would ruin the alliteration) is one way to address it. A Spanish news magazine ran a cartoon on its cover. In the cartoon, a smiling Prince Felipe tells his wife Princess Letizia, who is kneeling on the bed in front of him: "Do you realize that if you get pregnant it will be the closest that I come to working in my life!" Now, the government has ordered the seizure of all the magazines that were printed because it insults the royal family. Judge Juan del Olmo of the National Audience wrote in a court order that the cartoon on the cover of El Jueves showed the royal couple in a "degrading" posture that may have broken laws that protect the royal family and the dignity of the crown. The laws carry a maximum prison sentence of two years.
Predictably, copies are showing up on eBay.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, home of the free press, Harry Potter fans are whining pitiably because the New York times had the temerity to review HP7 in its pages before the official release date of July 21. The outcry, which has been encouraged, if not created, by a Harry Potter fan site, attacks the Times for violating the author's and publisher's wishes that the book not be read or reviewed before they got the maximum publicity value out of their midnight marketing blitz.
To its credit, the Times stands up for its right to publish journalism. Comments on the paper's comments section seem to be running at least ten-to-one against the paper, with commenters making such cogent, well-reasoned arguments as, “Why do you think it is good journalism to make my 11 year old daughter cry?”

What do these stories have to do with each other? True, I haven't seen anyone burning the Times in effigy, or calling for the assassination of Michiko Kakutani, so I guess that's a good thing. Still, people on both sides of the Atlantic should pay attention to the need for a free press, especially in times of national crisis. The release of Deathly Hallows isn't a national crisis, but this controversy surely demonstrates that people have no conception of the idea that the point of journalism goes beyond telling people what they want to hear, and helping big corporations goose their book and movie sales.


Anonymous Tom McC said...

just an aside, it would have been pesetas for procreation, before the euro came along to ruin the alliteration...

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