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Country needs good journalism

To the Editor:

There is something disturbingly hypocritical about the Fargo/Moorhead Forum, which owns the Republican Eagle, preaching about Americans' failure to maintain interest in news about the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- to which we must now add, Pakistan -- while dismantling the R-E, a respected daily newspaper with a long history of awards for good journalism as well as photography, into a twice-weekly spread of local gossip and advertising.

I am not consoled by knowing the print media everywhere, once called The Fourth Estate for their respected function of keeping the people informed and government honest, are consolidating and collapsing all over the country. The generally poor quality and outright inaccuracy of radio, television and the Internet as news sources offer no substitute.

What can we do about it? A small group of area citizens, led by Paul Schaefer and Michelle Meyer, published a surprisingly widely read monthly newspaper, The Carp, which discussed serious public issues in depth. But it was too much work and too hard to maintain a budget supported entirely by donations. The same issue underlies the inability of locally supported food shelves and housing projects to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless in a nation controlled by big business.

Government is regarded as a necessary evil for providing minimal services: roads and bridges, public schools, and health care, but as a vital partner to Wall Street in dominating and exploiting those less powerful both within and beyond our borders. The resources we could spend to adequately support education and health care are consumed by the cost of maintaining empire abroad and prisons to hold our failures at home.

Is there still hope for a truly democratic and representative government "of the people, by the people, and for the people?" What if good journalism, like roads and bridges, was recognized as a public need and an independent commission were established, financed but not controlled by the federal government, to provide financial support for the media? What if access to knowledge and accurate information was identified by government as a human right, as basic as civil liberties? What if?

David Harris

Red Wing