Over the weekend, the Ventura County Star did a comprehensive three-part series on various aspects of public pensions, including city and county liabilities, safety and civilian employees, union representatives and tax reform advocates. All things obvious and maybe not so obvious were considered in the coverage by reporter Arlene Martinez and her editors. The most concerning, unfunded liabilities are due to increase exponentially over the next five fiscal years and contractual obligations will force public entities to take the money, amounting to tens of millions of dollars across the county, from somewhere, if and when stock market investments fall short. That uncertainty of what it will cost the residents, the taxpayers of cities and the county, in terms of services, has caused many to become outraged and demand lawmakers get these costs under control. By the end of the series, there were certainly more questions than answers about how to resolve this issue, but at least we now have a solid foundation of facts and figures and several points of view on the subject. From there, the next step is on the citizenry to hold their elected officials accountable.
While advancements in technology and the proliferation and easy access to all sorts of information on the Internet have surely benefited society, they have also diluted the value of well-vetted, researched and investigative journalism. Because of our own personal interests and fear of being swindled by biased journalism — whether or not there is actual proof of such deceit — we, as an information-consuming public, have chosen personal interests and party-line reporting over relevant reporting in our own communities. Although we have seen our own daily newspaper go through a string of changes over the last several years, when it sinks its teeth into such complicated subjects, we should be paying attention, and not just dismiss it because of said changes. All print media has had to make some major adjustments for survival, but the value of investigative journalism by experienced journalists should not be underestimated or undervalued.
Over the last decade, too many people across the country have dumped the longstanding credible checks and balances of the Fourth Estate for sensational conspiracy-laden “news” websites that have both helped and made a fool of our president, especially with the recent unfounded wiretapping claim made by Donald Trump on Twitter that originated from a hard-right commentator and picked up by Brietbart. When our very own president stands firm on claims without evidence, our democracy is in jeopardy, and the work of trustworthy news organizations — outlets that have time and time again helped pave a path of truth and transparency of those who hold our fates in their hands — is of the utmost importance. Now is the time to question why our president is calling decades- and century-plus-old publications the enemy of the state and why these organizations are all seeing major spikes in subscriptions and viewers.
As we move cautiously into the future, we cannot just bury our heads in the sand. In an era when news stories are fluid on the Internet and even the president can write and delete his statements with little accountability, the print news publication should not die in this time of uncertainty. The printed word is as tangible as the paper that it is printed on. Surely, without it, we will all suffer.