By Jim Poling Sr.
Oh, every night and every day
A little piece of you is falling away
But lift your face the Western Way
Build your muscles as your body decays
a stanza from Hammer to Fall, the energetic rock song written in 1984
by Brian May, guitarist for the British rock band Queen. You might have
seen Oscar-winner Rami Malek, as lead Queen singer Freddie Mercury,
singing it in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.
It is a song about life
and death, with May once explaining that “the Hammer coming down is only
a symbol of the Grim Reaper doing his job.”
It is a song easily
identifiable today with the once unimaginable death and destruction
wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. More than one million people around
the world are infected with the virus. More than 70,000 have died, with
thousands more deaths predicted.
The economic toll of the pandemic
is being compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Businesses are
shuttered, unemployment is soaring, stock markets have been hammered.
All this happening to keep people distant from each other to lessen the spread of the virus.
so much human suffering and grief it seems almost unconscionable to
dwell on the problems of business and industry. However, I can’t avoid
thinking and writing about the pandemic’s effects on one industry in
particular – the newspaper industry.
The newspaper industry as we
have known it will not survive this pandemic. It has been in a weakened
state – basically bedridden for several years – and advertising revenue
lost during the near global lockdown will cause it to draw its final
Some daily newspapers have cut publication days. Some have
closed their doors and others certainly will follow. Whatever has been
cut or lost will not return.
There is nothing that can be done to
save the overall newspaper industry as we have known it – news printed
on paper and delivered by hand. Some printed newspapers will survive,
others will carry on strictly as digital products or others might appear
in formats yet to be invented.
What must not be allowed to die is the professional, disciplined journalism cultivated by newspapers.
is the oxygen-rich breath in the lungs of democracy. When deprived of
it, those lungs collapse and the democracy dies.
There are those who
would applaud the death of journalism. That would suit their autocratic
interests, allowing them to spread unchallenged their misinformation and
hyper prejudiced claptrap.
We live in a dark age of information
manipulation in which information critical to our lives is twisted like
pretzels. Waves of words wash over us daily, increasing the need for
more, not fewer, professional journalists who produce balanced news that
is fact-checked, edited and put into context.
Good journalism is
about reporting truth in the public interest. Good journalism’s only
allegiances are to facts and the public interest.
governments cannot keep journalism from dying. Only the citizenry, which
journalism was born to serve, can save it.
A problem with that is
that much of our citizenry is not well informed about journalism. Most
people do not understand its workings and complexities, let alone its
value to society.
They must become better informed if journalism is
to survive to continue shining light into unseen areas and to observe
and report the actions of those making decisions that affect us all.
key to having the general public better informed about the value of
journalism is held by society’s influencers. The civic leaders, business
leaders and religious leaders; the people whose words and actions are
watched and followed by the public.
It is the influencers who need to
make the importance of journalism, and the need to sustain it, an
important topic of conversation.
We just can’t stand by and let journalism die. If we do, we are accepting the final stanza of the Queen song:
What the hell we fighting for
Just surrender and it won’t hurt at all
You’ve just got time to say your prayers
While you’re waiting for the Hammer to Fall.
I refuse to accept that. I will not surrender. No one should.
Lungs need oxygen and democracy needs good journalism. That’s a message important to pass along.