The annual "rite of passage" will happen for many young people this weekend as high schools and colleges hold their graduation ceremonies. High school students will be off to college in the fall, community college graduates will be on to four year colleges and universities and those graduates will be starting careers that, for many, will last a lifetime.
It's a melancholy time for the parents who gave birth to these young people. They nursed them through rashes, inner-ear infections, and taught them how to talk and, hopefully, think. They agonized over their disappointments and relished in their victories. They hope they raised them right and prepared them, as best they could, for a future the parents are not familiar with.
This is a dramatic departure from a generation ago when children going off to college or taking a full-time job for the first time could rightfully expect to occupy essentially the same world their parents grew up in. That's no longer true. With technology expanding geometrically, the world today's children will inherit bears little resemblance to the world their parents grew up in.
Practically everyone in my generation grew up reading the newspaper. The only news we were exposed to on television was the evening national news which aired for 30 minutes a day and two local news broadcasts. Now news is available all the time, whether it's on cable, satellite, smart phones or the Internet.
And with this constant exposure to news, we've seen a shift in how news is presented. The news media is called the fourth estate because of its long standing tradition and obligation to present the public with the facts and let the people make up their own minds. Some news organizations still promise that but usually fail to deliver. Much news today is presented from a particular perspective that embodies the ownership of the news outlet. FOX news caters to a conservative base, MSNBC to a liberal one and all the other news outlets fall somewhere in between.
For struggling daily newspapers, where the primary objective is simply keeping their heads above water, the pressure is intense. So information is watered down or eliminated completely if it might offend either the readership or the corporate bosses. In doing this, the fourth estate has lost its mandate and, subsequently, its legitimacy.
We all remember George Orwell's cautionary tale named 1984 in which he specifically identified Big Brother and how the government would one day control not only what we say but how we think. In 2011, we're closer to that than ever before but it's not the government that's doing it, it's big business.
Anyone, whether a private citizen or a company or corporation, loses power and influence when they're in trouble financially and that's where most print organizations are today. Their sole source of income comes from subscriptions and advertising and, consequently, they don't feel they can take the risk of alienating any advertising dollars or risking a lawsuit by printing something a potential advertiser might not like.
So they don't.
When that happens, we all lose. We lose the ability to see that story or opinion in print. We lose the ability to write the editor about it and put in our own two cents worth. We lose the ability to have a lively debate about the pros and cons of it.
In protecting and shielding these big moneyed corporate interests from any criticism, the print media has become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
EDITOR'S NOTE -- The writer was asked to include comments from the management of a local business in a column critical of that business. The Gazette has a longstanding policy of encouraging those with disputes with local businesses to discuss them with those businesses.