Name: Howard B. Schiffer
Title: Vitamin Angels Founder and President
In today’s era of fake news, personalized content, re-tweeters, bloggers, and pundits spreading stories with no research into what’s true, it’s easy for people to forget how important real investigative journalism is.
In the not-distant past, journalists were honored. Today, they’re at risk. SLAPP lawsuits are common as powerful companies use our legal system to intimidate and harass reporters with the unstated purpose of stopping exposés on corruption. Local newspapers are going out of business at alarming rates, and “news deserts” are now a reality across the United States. In addition, artificial intelligence is now being adopted by news organizations to draw in readers with the ‘right’ headline, with no regard to actually uncovering important stories.
Recently, I finished three books, two on the Harvey Weinstein investigation and one on the “troubles” in Northern Ireland during the ’70s and ’80s. All three read like page-turning mysteries, but what was most startling was not just the depth of the reporting and what was disclosed but the fact that the stories came out at all. Millions of dollars had been spent on legal teams, political maneuvering, and decades of cover-up to suppress the truth.
I was left with a profound sense of respect for journalists who risk their own safety and sanity to bring important stories to our attention. I remembered why our country’s founders put “freedom of the press” into the First Amendment. They knew that without an active press and without journalists who can commit time and resources to reporting an important story, those in power will never be held accountable.
So, when I heard that our local newspaper, the only ‘Independent’ newspaper in Santa Barbara, is offering a new subscription service, I immediately told the paper’s editor, and my friend, “I want to be the first to sign up!” I sent in my check the next day, with some extra to cover gift subscriptions for members of our community. It’s a small and very local way of voting: Yes! Journalism really does matter!