Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Fox Guarding St. Louis's Henhouse

In the wake of the Post-Dispatch's shameful non-coverage of 4,300 union supporters rallying in Kiener Plaza, I want to return to a story that I meant to discuss in much greater detail a while ago. After Lee Enterprises bought the Post-Dispatch, they tried to persuade a number of employees to retire early. As part of this persuasion, they said, in writing, that they would provide free health care for life to the employees that accepted early retirement. However, despite Lee's continued profits, late last year they sent a letter to retirees informing them that they would no longer be paying for their health care. That, as you might imagine, had devastating effects for many retirees.

One such retiree is Fred Jackson, a man currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Lee Enterprise's greedy decision will quite literally bankrupt Mr. Jackson at a time he needs to pay for his treatment, but they simply do not care. Please take four minutes and watch the excellent video produced by Hotflash at Show Me Progress:
Just think about that for a second. The company managing the "paper of record" for the St. Louis region cares so little about humanity that they are willing to lie to cancer patients and then screw them over for the sake of a couple fractions of a percentage of extra profit. Lee Enterprises directly embodies the picture of corporate greed unburdened by an inkling of conscience. Can we really expect them to give fair coverage to workers fighting for a fair salary? Can we really think that they, when the chips are down, will provide unbiased coverage of a battle between corporate entities that share their exact same philosophy (profit! profit! profit! and screw the collateral damage!) and the middle class?

Increasingly, I think we can't. The Post-Dispatch has an excellent editorial board and many great employees, but their local political reporting has been going down the toilet and is doing so in a way that tips off the owners' allegiances. I really hope the Beacon, the Riverfront Times, and the St. Louis American can increasingly fill the giant gap left by the failure of the Post-Dispatch's political reporting. And I hope even more that citizens of St. Louis who believe in anything other than mindless, heartless, unwavering support for corporate profits will begin to create and distribute their own news, and cease to be dependent for their primary local news on an entity with so little respect for human life.

We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
-Joseph Pulitzer (though I first heard it from Sylvester Brown)

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