He asks himself whether art in itself (l’art pour l’art) was the reason he did it, not the praise he got for his efforts. Yes, he enjoyed the gestures themselves and the magic of images made. But the praise from significant (and not) others cannot be discounted as it exposes the paradox of belonging—fitting in by standing out—that our life as a game rewards.

He was never good enough at the usual methods of belonging—athletics, scholastics and socializing—to make the grade, so he had to do something else, and art was that. He eventually became better at those activities, but not enough to earn a living with them, so he stuck with art. And with his art, he got a job. But it was not all art, it was part journalism. And he was good enough at both to keep that job for 36 years, through both the so-called golden years and some of the dark ages, too…

. . .

Journalism was an honest profession when he was in it. Journalists would never (almost never) lie in their deeds, they saw their job as telling an objective truth as opposed to the subjects of their efforts for whom truth was often simply what made them look good. Journalists believed in a fundamental truth religiously, in other words without a lot empirical back up.

Another reason for journalists’ truth telling is that they knew if they lied they’d be caught and quickly fired, never to do journalism again. This is because back in the day, there were three or more copy editors who fact-checked and corrected reporters’ work before it was published. That is no longer the case; stories (images and videos as well) are published as quickly as they are created and only edited if a reader comments on an error.

The managers are less honest than the copy editors and reporters they oversee. These upwardly-mobile former journalists just want to please their own bosses enough to replace them some day. This is at odds with the stated goal of inform their readers. They really just want their readers’ money and mess with the truth to get that.

The process is, with no irony, called “play.” After the stories are reported and are in the process of being edited they are positioned by the corporate climbers; they can be “played above the fold,” if they’ll get readers attention—quarters then, these days clicks—and won’t piss off the publishers and their pals or they are buried, briefed or even “spiked” if they won’t or will respectively.

The powers that be stay the powers that be. Nothing really changes in big [media] business. However idealistic cub reporters are when they first get into the game, they remain means to ends. They all figure this out. Some get out, more get taken out, but a few sign up with the dark side. These mercenaries, while saying they are in it for the team, the profession, “the people,” are really always doing what it takes to win individually—become a power that is—at least until it becomes obvious that they have triumphed, when they cast aside their team gear and say, “we won, [really meaning I won] get over it!” exultant in that they no longer need to hide their true selves.

. . .

…The praise thing, an incentive even as intermittent as it was, is now gone, as is the opportunity to be doing journalism. But, as much from habit as l’art pour l’art, the process goes on, though it is some times quite a fight with his old bones to get up from the TV or a nap to draw or write. But fantasizing that what he continues to do is more than just a harmless hobby of a harmless old man is some how enough.

. . .

I’ll only defend journalists I know. The few pundits I know are OK too. But neither are Big Media. They just work for it. They do journalism—or commentary—for a livelihood. I find no fault in this, per se, you gotta make a living. But when Big Media forgets it’s the fourth estate (The first is currently Trump; the second, the rest of the pols; and third, the un-elected plutocrats) and becomes just another corporation, it’s time to do journalism and commentary somewhere else.

Think of the tides, something that comes and goes, that’s what you have with the fourth estate function of Big Media. When there are profits to be made being the fourth estate, Big Media is there; when the profits are in rolling over for the first three estates, it’s there instead.

So where are we now? Watch this Chomsky “the wall” mash-up for a hint,