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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Reporter’s Alert: Part IV

By Ralph Nader
April 16, 2021

Reporters at major newspapers and magazines are hard to reach by telephone. Today it is increasingly hard to converse with them about timely scoops, leads, gaps in coverage, and corrections to published articles.

We started an online webpage: Reporter’s Alert. From time to time, we will use Reporter’s Alert to present suggestions for important reporting on topics that are either not covered or not covered thoroughly. Reporting that just nibbles on the periphery won’t attract much public attention or be noticed by decision-makers. Here is the fourth installment of suggestions:

1. Among the many reports on the defeat of workers trying to form a union in Bessemer, Alabama’s Amazon warehouse, there was little inquiry into why labor – after a strenuous effort by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) – lost by about a two to one margin with about half the workers not voting. A postmortem would be fascinating regarding:

a. the reasons why workers did not vote;
b. why the labor strategies and tactics didn’t work, in spite of very positive media coverage and endorsements by prominent politicians and celebrities; and
c. what different strategies or alternative approaches, in retrospect, might have worked better.

2. After the November elections, there were rumors that the Trumpsters were going to destroy documents, correspondence, and emails that could be incriminating. You will recall the noise Trump made from 2016 on about Hillary’s “missing” emails. Have you read any reporting about what the incoming Democrats, agency by agency, department by department, have discovered about the shredding of digital and paper records? Given Trump’s habit of lawlessness, the dismantling of regulatory programs by and for his cronies, and the sheer corruption of the Trump regime year after year, the soil was fertile for the wholesale destruction of evidence. Looking for emails by government lawyers – e.g., Office of Special Counsel – advising Trump not to have political campaign events on federal property and not to give campaign-enhancing orders to federal employees, in clear violation of The Hatch Act, should be an inviting reporting initiative.

3. Some in New York State claim that higher state taxes on the super-rich will encourage wealthy people to make Florida their residence, because Florida, like some other southern states, has lower taxes. Curious reporters may sense a story here. What price do Floridians specifically pay because the state collects less revenue – lesser social welfare and other public services, poorer infrastructure, less health care for the indignant, poorer schools and colleges in the public sphere, etc.? We often read about how southerners pay lower taxes, especially business taxes, but there are societal costs to the vast majority of the people that need to be revealed in a comprehensive manner.

4. A more general suggestion: Great stories have exposed problems, followed by the promises of reform by government officials or companies. Where is the follow-up to see if the announced investigation or corrective action ever resulted in any change? Over the decades, for example, the New York press would expose “sewer service,” a terrible assault on the poor who are sued by creditors. “Sewer service” happens when the party suing intentionally fails to provide service of process to a party in a lawsuit to prevent the party from having a chance to respond or even know about the lawsuit. Sometime later, these assaults would quietly resume after the investigations and/or the news coverage. Such reprehensible practices often resume when the headlines fade. Some recidivist habits or promises need the rays of the sun, as Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”. Reviewing a list of past “investigations” to see, what if anything, was truly resolved by these declared investigations may produce worthy news. FOIAs may be especially useful here.

5. There is much talk these days among the high officials in Washington about restoring or strengthening “international order.” Historically, treaties have been a major way of securing international order. Why then, regardless of which party has been in power, are there so many treaties signed onto by almost every country in the world, yet not ratified by the Senate nor even signed by the President, and sent to the Senate for approval?

It is easy to see a list of treaties and other international agreements on the State Department website: https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/TIF-2020-Full-website-view.pdf. Some of the international agreements that have, inexplicably, been opposed or ignored by the U.S. include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Criminal Court, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Why?

One of the reasons for such American “exceptionalism” is that the world’s most powerful Empire wishes not to be so restricted by the rule of law because it can exert the “Rule of Power.” Hardworking civic organizations are frustrated with the lack of media coverage of the many variables involving foreign, military, and corporate policies on a global scale. Prolonged official “inaction” often dulls the media’s sense of newsworthiness. Reporters, with few exceptions, need to wake up and report on the ongoing consequences of such disengagement, immunities, and lawlessness.